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Potential for Change: Solar Electric Vehicles


Commercial solar electric vehicles will be available for purchase in the U.S. and Europe in the upcoming years.

Sono Motors, a German company, as well as Aptera Motors and Lightyear are going to produce electric vehicles that have solar panels.

The solar panels will allow the vehicles to utilize energy from the sun for 15-45 miles on a clear day, in addition to the regular lithium-based batteries that can be charged with electricity from the grid. 

For people who drive short distances on a daily basis, most of their miles can be fueled from the sun.

The Sono Sion will likely begin production in mid-2023 in Europe, with the price starting at $25,000. The vehicle has 465 integrated solar half-cells on the exterior, and its battery has a 190-mile range.

According to Laurin Hahn, the Sono Motors co-CEO and co-founder, the car provides the owner 5,700 miles annually free of charge because it comes from the sun. This is about 15 miles per day, which Hahn says is “perfect for commuters.” 

Aptera Motors’ vehicle has two seats and three wheels, and according to the company CEO Chris Antony, was designed with aerodynamics in mind. 

The vehicle costs range between $26,000 and $ 48,000. Aptera’s premium model contains a lithium-ion battery with a 1,000-mile range.

The Lightyear 0 is similar to Aptera Motors’ vehicle in that it was designed with aerodynamics in mind, but its appearance is more like an ordinary car than a futuristic vehicle.

The vehicle’s lithium-ion battery has a 390-mile range, in addition to around 20 miles from solar energy up to nearly 45 miles. 

Lex Hoefsloot, the CEO of Lightyear explains that a lot of the reasons people aren’t switching to electric vehicles have to do with charging and range, and that the company is targeting customers who wouldn’t normally have considered buying an electric vehicle.

The Lightyear 0 will cost $ 250,000, which according to Hoefsloot is due to the initial model being a limited release. The price will be $30,000 after the Lightyear 2 starts selling and production scales hit the market. 

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries do carry risks, since they can catch fire if the temperature rises too high. This is because the electrolyte in them is flammable.

Along with other researchers, Stanford University graduate student Rachel Z Huang developed a non-flammable electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries, which allowed batteries to withstand high temperatures with catching fire. 

This new method could be used in electric vehicles, without, according to Huang, having to change the manufacturing setup. 

Stanford Professor Yi Cui explains that this battery electrolyte is “compatible with the existing lithium ion-battery cell technology” and that it would have a great impact on electrical transportation and consumer electronics.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electric vehicles have to abide by the same safety standards as regular vehicles. 

The battery packs that they utilize also have to meet testing standards. Electric vehicles are designed to have safety features that shut down the electrical system in case of a short circuit or collision.

Compared to gasoline cars, electric vehicles usually have a smaller carbon footprint even when one accounts for the electricity used in charging. 

But many electric vehicles are much heavier than the average car, which also comes with risks in the case of an accident.



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