Can Cars Run Off of Solar Power?
Because of a general lack of effective public transport, it is necessary for most of us to rely on private transport and own a car. It is best to make sure this private transport is as environmentally friendly as possible, which leads us to ask whether a car can be run on solar power.
The amount of energy from the sun that reaches the surface of the earth each day is staggering. There is easily enough energy there to power all human industry and transport several times over. A great deal of this energy is reflected back into space from the surface as light or radiated into space as infra-red energy, which is another name for heat.
The great advantage of solar panels is that they generate electricity from sunlight that is already falling on the surface of the earth. Had that energy not been converted into electricity in the panel, it would have been absorbed by the earth to be later released as heat, been reflected into space, or been used by a plant to make sugars. The electricity from the panel can be transported and used elsewhere. When used, the energy in the electricity is ultimately released as heat. This means that a solar panel is effectively converting sunlight into heat, but allowing that conversion to do some work which results in the heat moving to a different location.
This compares favorably with using fossil fuels as an energy source. Because these fuels come from long buried sources, the heat they add to the atmosphere when burned is additional to what would otherwise be there. This means that there is a net increase in energy in the atmosphere, and it is this that causes concern regarding the issue of climate change.
This makes it clear that being able to use sunlight to power our vehicles is a desirable option. But is this a realistic option? The fact is that this is already being done. Owners of electric cars are using mains supply electricity rather than petroleum to charge the batteries which power their vehicles. All that needs to be added to this scenario is to obtain the electricity from a renewable source such as a domestic solar installation or a solar power plant and one can effectively be driving on sunshine.