The convenience of Solar Electric Vehicles has been hotly debated by experts and hobbyists for a long time. In fact, it's a cool concept to embed solar panels into the body of cars to at least allow their batteries to collect a little extra energy to run the car for a few extra miles a day. In this article we would like to discuss some of the most advanced solar cars as of today; but with the caveat that some models on this list are not necessarily already on the market, but only in a prototype phase. However, the list will give you an idea of the new inventions, features and technologies used in transforming electric cars into cool self-charging solar vehicles.
Sono Sion is a 5-seater electric car with integrated solar cells. It is from Sono Motors, a German startup, which announced the car in April 2022, and is projected to go into mass production in 2023; it will be available in an early stage on European markets. 48 Volt Lithium Battery
The electric car will have a 54 kWh LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery and will be able to travel up to 190 miles on a single charge, according to WLTP standards. The engine under the hood is a 120 kWh unit, which can produce 163 HP and a speed of 90 mph with a torque of 270 Nm. With no fewer than 456 half-cells integrated into its bodywork, the car is expected to provide 70 miles (up to 150 miles maximum) of extended range per week on solar power. The price tag is 29,900 Euros.
According to the brand, it has managed to integrate the solar cells into the entire body of the car with a patented injection molding technology in the production phase itself. In this way, the solar cells will have the same appearance as the paint on any vehicle and will not detract from the overall appearance and style of the vehicle.
What's more, Sono Motors has designed the car with outlet plugs so that users can harness power from its built-in battery to run their home appliances of up to 3.7 kW on a camping or outdoor trip. Also, together with the brand's Wallbox DC charging station, you can use the car battery to power a house in case of an emergency or blackout. The car comes with an exclusive Sono app, useful for owners to easily multitask. Car sharing, ride sharing and energy sharing are some of the most interesting features of the mobile app.
Aptera is another major (American) manufacturer of solar electric cars, famous for their super aerodynamic and lightweight designs. The Aptera solar car is capable of running for most of your daily needs without charging as it is backed by solar panels on its entire body.
The Aptera solar car is a three-wheeled, two-seater electric vehicle. It highlights an incredibly unique design with amazing streamlined dynamism and somehow resembles a dolphin’s belly. According to the brand, the car is 65% lighter than other solar electric vehicles; another impressive feature that sets the Aptera solar car apart from the competition is its availability in multiple battery options, such as 23 kWh, 41 kWh, 60 kWh and 100 kWh, respectively, with a range of 150 miles, 250 miles, 350 and 600 miles.
Aptera's “Never Charge” technology gives the car an extended range of 40 miles per day on solar power, as it is equipped with 700W solar cells throughout its body, from the hood to the dashboard. With multiple units of the 50 kW Elaphe motors, an Aptera can accelerate 0 - 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The price is a very reasonable $25,900.
Lightyear 0 is a very practical 5-seater solar car from a Dutch startup. With a massive 60 kWh battery pack, it can offer a range of up to 600 miles. Roof-mounted solar cells can add an extra 45 miles of daily range to the EV and a total performance of 685 miles per year. The roof of the solar car carries 5 m² of patented, double-curved, high-efficiency solar cells and four independently controlled in-wheel motors. Apart from solar panels, the car can be charged at a faster rate at any normal charging station for electric vehicles; it can also be charged from any regular household socket.
The Lightyear 0 can reach a speed of 60 mph in just ten seconds; the body panels are made of recovered carbon fiber and its interior is also made with components of natural origin to guarantee respect for the environment in all phases of its development. The trunk capacity is 640 liters. Like the Sono Sion, the Lightyear 0 has a typical car design along with a better aerodynamic profile for faster, sun-powered cruising. The price is a hefty $119,000, though they stated that subsequent models will be way more affordable.
Fisker Ocean is a fully electric SUV with a "Solar Sky" sunroof for increased range. The first deliveries of the solar car are expected to start in early 2023, and one of the best things about the car is that it features a revolutionary full-length sunroof, as we said before. It can provide a good amount of solar power in the battery pack, allowing the car to achieve an extended range of around 950 miles a year.
Fisker's solar car comes with an 80 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and can reach a speed of 60 mph in just three seconds, an amazing feature. Aside from the solar panels, most of the car has been built with sustainable and recycled materials, such as ocean debris and vegan leather.
Since the introduction of its concept car, Fisker's solar has been exhibited at various auto shows around the world and has received much praise for its appearance and performance. In addition to the United States, the car will go on sale in Europe. Like the Sono Sion, Fisker's solar car features a PowerBank system that can be used to draw power from its built-in battery to run home or road equipment.
Thanks to the enormous capacity of its battery, you can run a normal house for a whole week using the EV cell, and the included power outlets allow you to use energy-intensive outdoor appliances and electronics. The “PowerShare” feature allows to share the car's power with another EV to give any other driver an emergency power boost. The Fisker Ocean´s tag price is $37,499.
The “Squad” is one of the first solar-powered city cars: unlike all previous models, this is actually a micro-car, with solar cells on the roof to fully meet the charging needs of a small city car. People usually drive a micro-car for only about 12 km a day on average, so this car is made to charge itself directly from the sun for 20 km (12 miles) a day (in Europe), which means you would almost never have to resort to its 220V charging port.
The Squad solar car comes in two variants: L6 and L7. The first is a two-seater with 30 mph maximum speed, while the second is a four-passenger car with a 45 mph capacity. All variants have heating, while air conditioning is optional and the battery packs are portable and interchangeable. It goes without saying that the solar panel micro-car is the cheapest of its kind available to customers: it starts at an affordable price of 6,250 euros. In addition, authorities (in Europe) will most likely exempt drivers from other expenses that normal cars have there, like road tax, congestion charges, parking fees, etc. Also, to drive this little car in many countries an owner won't even need a driver's license.
With the advent of electric vehicles, the focus of the automotive industry is quickly shifting towards electric cars, on a worldwide basis. Solar cars are the future, and some of the world’s most innovative companies are investing heavily in the development of these vehicles. Sono Motors, Aptera, Lightyear, Fisker, and Squad have already developed solar cars that are both efficient and affordable. These cars are also equipped with great features like car sharing, ride sharing, and energy sharing. The solar car technology has advanced a lot in the past few years, and there is no doubt that it will only continue to get better in the future.
Sources: Sono Motors, aptera, lighhtyear 0, Fisker Ocean, Squad Solar
Lifepo4 Forklift Batteries Nico Caballero is the VP of Finance of Cogency Power, specializing in solar energy. He also holds a Diploma in Electric Cars from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and enjoys doing research about Tesla and EV batteries. He can be reached at @NicoTorqueNews on Twitter. Nico covers Tesla and electric vehicle latest happenings at Torque News.