As car owners become more and more environmentally conscious about the vehicles they own, it’s only reasonable to ask if you should get an “environmentally-conscious” vehicle, like a solar car. Solar power has always been appealing since relying on a renewable resource like sunlight will undoubtedly save money over time and cut down on the carbon footprint we leave behind while driving fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
Although concepts have been developed, and solar cars may in fact be available in showrooms in a few years, there are still many sceptical opinions out there that suggest that solar cars will always remain a pipe dream. However, with electric cars now surging into the market and onto the road, one can only hope that solar cars are not too far behind.
At the Consumer Electronic Show 2014, Ford presented the C-Max Solar Energi, a vehicle that takes the hybrid model to the next level by relying on solar energy. Multiple factors are at play when it comes to powering this hybrid, which enable it to be driven even on cloudy days and dark nights – albeit the large photovoltaic panel on the roof of the vehicle looks kind of goofy.
Nevertheless, the question remains: should you get a solar car? Here are some pros and cons that might paint a clearer picture:
Pro: Environmentally Responsible
A cloud of guilt often hangs over many car owners’ heads. Even by driving the most fuel-efficient vehicle, drivers are still adding to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing pollution, which in turn harm our health and the wellness of the planet. Needless to say, the solar car will go a long way in solving the problems we have created for ourselves. However, if we want to make strides towards a proper solution, tiny steps will need to be made, and if public transit, riding the bike and walking are the first steps, then surely driving a solar-powered car that omits the need for fossil fuel is the second.
Con: Not Accommodating Enough
For any driver who had spent many frustrating minutes looking for a parking spot downtown would know that there is just not a whole lot of space for cars in the city. Odds are, only urban drivers would consider purchasing a solar car because they don’t always have to park where there is no sunlight, but it seems as though it will create a challenging lifestyle for those who do decide to buy one. Electric cars, such as the Nissan LEAF, can be plugged into an outlet to charge, but a solar car will need sunlight. Can there be a way to modify garages and parking lots so that sunlight could enter? The radio station I listen to while driving cuts out when I enter a cavernous parkade, so I must say that sunlight’s presence there would be even less likely.
Our gasoline-chugging lifestyle often forces us to consider alternatives, but are solar cars actually cheaper than buying a tank of gas over a couple of weeks? Unfortunately, there are still many variables to consider, but I predict that once a reliable system is implemented, money will in fact be saved in the long run. Even if the vehicle is a hybrid, relying on both solar energy and combustion will pay off the initial cost over time. However, the cost for a solar car at the moment is quite high, and batteries require frequent replacements. That being said, solar cars may soon be a more feasible option.
Con: Performance and Design Complications
More energy equals more power equals greater speed. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that in order for a solar car to go faster, it’ll need more “solar” energy. Sure, a small solar panel might be able to power your calculator, but for a car, you’ll need a lot more. The thing is, solar panels take up space and it’s not necessarily lightweight or aerodynamic either. Drivers need to understand that solar cars are not designed for performance, but rather for economy. Automakers are hesitant when dropping money to develop solar cars, because North American drivers are often reluctant to purchase new, high-priced and under-performing technology.
Should You Get a Solar Car?
After weighing the pros and cons, it’s clear that at the moment, the cons are hard to ignore, even if the pros are alluring. Solar cars are not ready for the open market yet. But there is definitely demand and a market out there for them. There are also many companies working on automotive innovations that include solar power. Although some are still dubious about the prospect of solar cars, I truly believe that they are a possibility. Remember when electric cars were shunned as a fantasy from eco-friendly dreamers? Now, an electric car is just another vehicle on the road.
However, at the moment, it’s best to avoid purchasing a solar car. If you want to be fuel and green conscious, consider a Chevrolet Volt or a hybrid. Until then, know that technology development moves very quickly and whether you’re in a solar car or not, the sun will rise again tomorrow.