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Self Powered Electric Cars

UCF Zenn


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Welcome to the Self Powered Electric Car section.

What is an Self Powered Electric Car?
SP: It gathers or creates the energy to move ON ITS OWN, it uses NO fuel, and is NOT plugged in to recharge.
E: It is electric, having motors powered by electricity for propulsion.
V: It is a vehicle, meaning it will carry at least one human.

Self powered electric cars have been built since about 1970, shortly after photovoltaic panels became available. They had limited usefulness back then, with little range, but have improved every year.

Distance records:
Larry Perkins and Hans Tholstrupset the first solar car distance record in 1982 of 4,000 km (2500 miles) across Australia in Quiteachiever. In 2000 "radiance" from Canadian Queens University did 7,000 km (4375 miles). The Australians returned in 2002 with "Aurora" with 12,000 km (7500 miles). In 2004 the Midnight Sun solar car team from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, traveled 15,070 km (9,364 miles) through Canada and the US. Marcelo del Luz raised the record by traveling over 12,500 miles in 2008/9 in the Power of One, solely on power generated by the cars solar roof, and is still going.

Photovoltaics have continued to increase efficiency and decrease in price, I'll give you an example of the progress made in the last 30 years. My first SPEV car was powered by 3 30 watt panels, $300 each or $900 total, producing 90 watts in 12 square feet of area. It was very convenient, if I parked it in the sun it would fill itself with power. The car ran quite well, would carry 3 adults and pull a loaded trailer at 15 mph, but it's range was about 1 mile per day. If left in the sun for several days it could go farther.

Comparison of PV cost change in 30 years:
1970's, 3 - 90 watt panels, 12 sq ft, $900 (ARCO 30 watt)
2009, 1 - 175 watt panel, 13.7 sq ft, $745 (Solarworld SW175 panel)

Power output per sq ft is up over 65%, while the cost has gone down, incredible cost reduction! Today's dollar is worth one third what it was 30 years ago, so in real terms the cost in 1977 dollars for the new Solarworld panel is $248, less than a third the cost, for twice the power. The world continues to make photovoltaics that produce more power for less money, year by year.

Electric cars steadily improve. They weigh less, are more efficient, and range is increasing. As the cars use less and less power, and the PV panels continue to produce more, we can now drive cars that power themselves. It has already begun, with the University of Central Florida driving their solar powered Zenn 15 to 20 miles per day, completely on self contained solar power, with air conditioning!

Progress is made steadily, today solar powered cars race the North American Solar Challenge, 2400 miles in 10 days. The World Solar Challenge across Austraila is 3,000 kilometers. These cars can travel hundreds of miles per day, day after day! More practical vehicles that hold up to 14 people are being sold today by Cruise Cars of Florida.

If you have a car SPEV you'd like to see included in this list, email David at davidluc@earthlink.net

4/26/09 Cal Sol, of Berkeley, California. New car for 2009.

4/14/09 Sunchaser, student, AUS and Siemens built Sunchaser in 2009.

4/11/09 Cruise Cars, wide selection of solar powered cars now in production.

4/8/09 GM Sunraycer, winner of the first World Solar Challenge in 1987.

4/1/09 University of Arizona Xebra, just put into service the end of March 2009.

3/24/09 Eclectic, design by Venturi of France, production to begin fall 2009.

3/15/09 Solar Taxi, traveled 53,000 km on a trip around the world, finished early 2009

3/12/09 Sol Invuctus, Iowa State's entry in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge, 8th place

3/8/09 Quant, Koenigsegg of Sweden is working on this "car of the future".

3/5/09 Solar Bajaj, solar three wheeled passenger vehicle used daily in Surrey, England.

3/2/09 Sol Machine 7, solar race car by Newburg Free Academy high school of New York.

2/28/09 Ra7, 2009 racer from Principia College, 2nd place in 2008 North America Solar Challenge.

2/25/09 Eleanor, 2009 racer from MIT

2/22/09The Power of One, also known as X of 1, the world record holder for distance traveled in a solar car.

2/20/09UCF Zenn, U. of Central Florida, Zenn completely solar powered.

Continuum, U. of Michigan, 1st place 2007 NASC, 2400 miles in 10 days.
Self powered cars are in their infancy. While they DO work, they also have limitations. A good comparison is the Wright brothers first flight. They just barely flew, and I'm sure many laughed at such a folly. It had many limitations and little practical use, similar to our self powered cars of today, and many today laugh at self powered vehicles, just like they laughed at the Wright brothers.

Can you imagine a world without airplanes today? No. In the near future, our grandchildren will not be able to imagine a world without vehicles that power themselves.

I remember my first "self winding" watch, it had a weight inside that wound the spring when I wore the watch. But if I didn't wear it, it would stop. Today you can buy a self powered watch with a tiny solar panel, and if you don't wear it, it will not stop. And it's cheaper than a "self winding" watch.

The cars of the future will require no fuel, and they will have air conditioning, and they will be faster, and they will cost less!