Solar energy can be used for many purposes. One of the applications that engineers are currently intrigued by is solar-powered vehicles. Although there are many concept cars that are built using solar power as its source of energy, there is still a long way to go before solar-powered cars can be commonly found on public roads.
One of the greatest challenge to realizing this potential is cost. Till today, high-efficiency solar panels are expensive. Mass produced PV panels only have a maximum of about 16 percent efficiency. Although there are solar panels that can reach over 40 percent efficiency, these only exists in labs. Scientists and engineers have yet to find a way to mass-produce them in a cost-efficient way. Therefore ultra-high efficiency solar panels remain extremely expensive.
However things have improved dramatically over the years. More than 10 years ago, having PV panels with 16 percent efficiency was unheard of. Therefore there is a strong likelihood that technology can advance to a place where commonly used PV panels can reach over 40 percent efficiency.
When this happens, the world can be changed in a very significant manner. If every car on earth relies on solar power to move, the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere can be dramatically reduced.
And when industries can depend mostly on solar energy to maintain their operations. Cost will go down and profits will go up. Global warming will also be less of an issue. There is hope that we can maintain Mother Earth as a safe place for our posterity.
There is another issue that hinders solar electric cars from being used on roads. The fact is there will be days that are not sunny, even seasons with little sunshine. So when these cars run out of power, it takes time for batteries to be charged. So there must be a way to quickly replace the used energy at various recharging stations. Otherwise solar-powered car can get stranded when it has no more power.
Nevertheless, this is less of an issue compared to cost. When electric cars are commonly used, there will surely be stations available at office buildings and at home. These locations already have electricity available. It is not to difficult to build charging stations so cars can have their batteries charged.
Everyone looks forward to the day when we all can drive solar-powered vehicles on public roads. But unless the efficiency of solar panels can increase dramatically while its cost drops drastically, this is still a pipe dream.
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