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7 modern solar-powered vehicles

By: Bryan Nelson on July 29, 2013, 5:01 p.m.
Tokai University's Solar Car "Tokai Challenger"

Photo: Hideki Kimura, Kouhei Sagawa/Wiki Commons

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Solar cars

Solar car design has become something of a competitive sport among engineers. In fact, most solar cars today are built for the purpose of solar car races. The competitive nature of these races has led to a rapid boom in performance, leading to the need for new safety regulations. For instance, one of the largest solar car races, the World Solar Challenge, instituted speed limits for the first time in 2007. Regulations aside, solar cars today can easily surpass the legal speed limit.

The major barrier to solar cars’ availability to the average consumer is that they still require a large surface area for the placement of PV panels. They must also be made extremely lightweight for maximum energy efficiency, which means little room for storage compartments, or often even a passenger seat.

Even so, as PV technology advances, solar cars are creeping ever-closer to feasibility for the average commuter.