Reaching a blazing-fast top speed of nearly 40 mph, the Dutch Nuon Solar Team just won the yearly Panasonic World Solar Challenge (car race) in Australia. Every once in a while, I'll get a comment asking why there aren't solar-powered cars on the road. And though it's extremely impressive to carry the body of man 3000 km using only the power of the sun, it's also obvious why we haven't seen solar powered cars yet.
One seat, long, low, slow, and expensive, solar cars aren't what most people are looking for. Though the solar cars do have to deal with traffic, bad weather, kangaroos on the road, etc. we're quite a ways away from solar cars that use more energy than a vacuum cleaner (the Nuna 4 does not.)
But don't let that get you down. Advances in solar technology are moving quickly. This year, the square footage of the solar panels allowed actually had to be lowered by a third because, last year, the vehicles were limited in speed not by power, but by the speed limit!
More than just the solar power, advancements in light-weight materials, aerodynamics, and "genetic algorithms" (which measure efficiency while varying engine performance to find the most efficient speed given road and weather conditions) all add to the abilities of this vehicle, and in the future, we'll see them in all vehicles.
Some sweet videos after the jump.
written by Hank, December 07, 2007
written by andreea, March 19, 2008
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