Solar charging sounds like it is the solution to electric vehicles’ biggest problem - the weight and cost of the huge battery they have to carry around in order to not induce range anxiety in their owners. It would also reduce the need to charge the vehicle, making the deal even sweeter.
There are no EVs that charge from the Sun on sale right now, though, but several very interesting and quite different solar EVs are just around the corner. The Lightyear One is probably the most spectacular upcoming solar EV, whose party trick is that it stretches a 60 kWh battery pack much longer thanks to a solar array that covers every upward-facing surface of its body.
Aptera is another name associated with solar EVs - its upcoming three-wheeler EV only has a 25 kWh battery pack, but between its low weight, aero-optimized shape and photovoltaic cells, it can deliver over 1,000 miles . The boxy Sono Motors Sion embeds solar cells not only in the hood and roof, but also in the fenders, doors and even the hatch in the back - its 248 solar cells can add up to 152 miles (245 km) of range per week in sunny conditions.
The limitations that are keeping solar EVs from taking off are also of a technical nature, as explained in this video published by Undecided with Matt Ferrell. Matt explains that because of the constraints of space on a car’s body and the relatively low efficiency of solar cells, the bang for buck isn’t really there for them in an automotive application.
However, he says this point only applies to traditional vehicles that were not designed with solar charging in mind. If you try to take a clean sheet approach, like Aptera, you can start to make solar charging meaningful. The Lightyear One also reaps the benefits of being designed with all of it in mind, offering significant free daily range.