During the 1990s, regulations requiring an approach to ‘zero emissions’ from vehicles increased interest in new battery technology. Battery systems that offer higher energy density became the subject of joint research by government and auto industry scientists.

Solar cars were first built by universities and manufacturers creating concept cars. As you can see, the sun energy collector areas needed to be extremely large and so impractical for normal consumer cars. However, over the years that situation has changed dramatically as development continues on solar cell design and car power supply requirements such as heater or air-conditioning fans.

Instead of using a battery, some solar cars direct the power straight to an electric motor. They can achieve this by using photovoltaic cells which convert the sun’s energy to electricity. They are made up of semiconductors, usually made of silicon, that absorb the light. The sunlight’s energy then frees electrons in the semiconductors, creating a flow of electrons. That flow generates the electricity that powers the battery or the specialised car motor in solar cars.

A variety of models have been built since the 1970s. Ed Passerini who constructed his own completely solar powered car called the ‘Bluebird’ in 1977; 

and Larry Perkins who drove the ‘Quiet Achiever’ in 1982 are both accepted as being two of the first people to do so.


More recently, both Ford and Mazda have built solar hybrid concept cars. The Ford Reflex installed solar panels in the headlights;

and the Mazda Senku featured solar panels on its roof to help charge its battery.

Although the Reflex, Provoq and Senku are concept models, more and more cars are being fitted with some sort of solar panels as designers search for more innovation using the new technology.
The Cadillac Provoq uses solar panels to power accessories, such as interior lights and the audio system.


German EV start-up Sono Motors has raised over £42.5m through crowdfunding, which it will use to produce the Sion, a solar electric vehicle (SEV).

The Sion will be built by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) at its factory in Trollhättan, once home to now-defunct manufacturer Saab, with production set to get underway in late 2020. Sono plans to produce 260,000 Sions over eight years and claims to have secured 13,000 pre-orders.



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