We have all heard of and maybe even seen cars that run on solar energy. These cars are completely free from the need for gasoline or other types of fuel, making them perfect for those who are eco-friendly or just want to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can. The idea of a solar car is captivating, and perhaps one day we will see them on the roads around us. However, there is one issue that some have expressed concern about: the amount of energy that the sun puts out compared to what our cars can utilize efficiently. In this article, we will examine this question and try to find an answer.
What Is The Maximum Output Capacity Of The Sun?
Let’s start by determining how much electricity the sun actually produces, effectively comparing it to the electric capacity of a car. The amount of energy that the sun provides is a function of both the time of day and the location of the Earth with respect to the Sun. During the day, the Sun’s energy is at its peak and therefore is most available for us to harness, this is called the ‘solar maximum’ and occurs around midday. During this time, the Sun is giving off around 14,000 watts per square metre (W/m²), and this is known as its ‘solar flare’ – the highest it can get! This is more than enough energy to power a small house, much less a large vehicle.
However, once the Sun’s energy starts declining as the day goes by (this is known as the ‘solar minimum’), this is when the real work begins for us to create electricity. This is because at this time there is less energy available to us to harness, resulting in much lower electric outputs. At the point in time when the Sun’s energy is at its lowest (the night time), it provides around 7,000 watts per square metre, effectively reducing the amount of energy available for us to use.
So, to recap, we have established that the sun provides enough energy to power a small house during the day, and this drops significantly during the night, creating a noticeable difference in wattage output between the night and day. This means that we are effectively limited to generating electricity only during the day, which is why many sustainable energy technologies are predominantly daytime-only options. The good news is that the cost of solar electricity is sufficiently low at this time that it is an effective and economical solution for generating our own electricity. This allows us to generate electricity 24/7 without worrying about running out, which is perfect for those who want to avoid wasting energy in any way possible.
Is It Possible To Use More Than One Type Of Energy Source In A Car?
The energy produced by the sun is not always going to be enough to power our cars, that is why we need to look into other options as well. This is where generators come in. These are the devices that allow us to create electricity using other sources, mainly fuel cells or turbines. In most cases, these generators are tethered to the grid and therefore need to be plugged into an electrical socket to be able to use them. They produce around the same amount of electricity as the sun does, but they are much more efficient at utilizing the energy they get, which is why many cars contain them as standard equipment. Additionally, these devices do not generate any harmful emissions, making them environmentally friendly as well.
The most common type of generator used in cars is the alternator, which is driven by the car’s engine to generate electricity. When you start your car and turn the ignition, the engine begins spinning and the alternator effectively makes electricity for you.
Now, it is possible to enhance this natural process of electricity generation by using a turbo charger, which increases the engine’s horse power. This allows you to reach your desired driving speed quicker, and it is also more economical to do so. However, a problem occurs when you stop the car at a traffic light or halt at a red traffic light: there is no electricity generated and the light turns green before you have a chance to leave. In this case, it is necessary to come back and reset the timer on the traffic light. This is another reason why cars that use generators as a main source of power tend to be less eco-friendly than those that solely rely on solar power. In the case of solar cars, the energy needs to be generated immediately when the car is started, which does not leave much room for error. This is why most solar cars cannot use generators and need to stay close to home, where they can rely on the sun and the environment to provide them with energy.
Are There Any Environmental Impacts From Generating Electricity Solely From The Sun?
The primary environmental impact that comes with generating electricity using only the sun is the temperature of the object that is doing the generating, in this case, the car’s engine. This is because when the engine is turned on, it begins to spin and the attached radiator starts to work, which in turn creates a lot of heat. The good news is that this heat is environmentally friendly and beneficial, though it is still high compared to ordinary temperatures and it can cause issues for those who are not used to working at such high temperatures. Additionally, in some cases, the car itself becomes affected by this extreme heat and therefore needs to be serviced or even replaced.
Apart from the engine, another issue that can arise due to the intense heat that is produced during electricity generation is that the plastics used in car manufacturing, mainly the tires, become affected. Over time, this can cause significant degradation in their performance, making them less safe and more vulnerable to breaking down. Other items such as air-conditioning or battery packs can also deteriorate due to exposure to heat and moisture, meaning they require more frequent replacement or service, which is both costly and environmentally unfriendly.
As we established previously, solar cars are more efficient at utilizing the energy they get compared to other cars with generators as standard equipment. In many cases, this results in a shorter overall lifespan for the vehicle. However, because they do not use any fossil fuels, the environment around them is unaffected and they have a long lifespan, provided they are serviced and maintained appropriately. Additionally, the energy that the car gets is completely free and therefore is an environmentally friendly and a money-saving option for drivers who want to reduce their carbon footprint.