Dr. Gary O’Bireck
The next time you are driving, imagine never again having to worry about buying gasoline or stopping to charge your electric vehicle. German car manufacturer Sono Motors believes it has solved these problems with their Sion solar-powered car, soon to be roaming Europe’s roads in 2019. In Holland, Lightyear plans for its first fully solar-powered vehicle, the Lightyear One, to be available in 2020. Sono’s Sion will be the first car capable of recharging its batteries from the sun since its hood; roof, sides and rear are covered with rustproof, polycarbonate-covered solar panels. Like the Lightyear One, these solar panels can power the car directly, charge the onboard battery or provide electricity for devices and other cars.
Batteries in both green cars offer a similar range when compared with currently available electric vehicles. Sono claims that the Sion will have a range of 250km, while the Lightyear One projects a greater distance of 400-600km. However, in contrast to standard electric vehicles that require a time-consuming recharge at the end of their cycles, solar-powered cars will be able to continue operating. Sono claims that, even when the Sion’s battery is completely discharged, the car will be able to drive 30km per day. Lightyear indicates that their Lightyear One is projected to run for months without being charged. The major upside of this is in deflecting one of the public’s major barriers to the extensive adoption of electric vehicles, the lack of charging stations. Both cars boast the added advantage of being portable power plants by being able to power equipment from the vehicle via standard domestic plugs, while also linking up to your house to use its panels to power your home, thereby enhancing their green appeal.
As reported by John McKenna in World Economic Forum, electric vehicles should cost about the same as fossil fuel cars by 2022, which should see them account for well over 30% of global new vehicle sales by 2040. Solar-power vehicles may follow suit. Lightyear predicts that their Lightyear One will cost $140,000 and up, excluding taxes. Sono Motors has priced its Sion in the more affordable range of $25,000. Over 5,000 preorders have been accepted for the Sion at $18,800, plus $4,700 or a rental charge for the battery.
So, is frantically searching for gas and/or charging stations nearing its end? With the onset of solar-powered vehicles, perhaps, someday, it will be.