Solar energy has been such an eternal power source on the face of the earth that it has been witnessed from the earliest of humankind throughout centuries.
In recent technological developmental times, solar energy has been converted into other forms of energy like electrical energy.
‘How to make a solar car?’ is one of the most worked-on questions by mechanical engineers worldwide.
This vast and unending energy source is trapped in photovoltaic plates that convert it into electrical energy, which can be later converted to mechanical energy like running a car.
The idea of successful solar cars brings solace to the human conscience as this will drastically reduce the production of pollutants due to fuel burning and utilize the ever-present sunlight to run your vehicles.
How To Make A Solar Car?
The automobile industry is actively producing innovative vehicle designs that will run on options other than fuel to curtail environmental pollution.
Electric vehicles are already in the market, which runs on batteries that can be charged, and now the next target is making solar cars.
There are some solar cars, but engineers are still working more vigorously to make such a design that proves to be more practical and efficient.
Making the solar car incorporates the simple technique of utilizing the photovoltaic plates to produce electrical energy, which can be stored or converted immediately into mechanical energy for running the car.
Let’s look into the process of building a solar car more extensively.
Design And Sunlight Exposure:
For decades now, automobile industry engineers have been working on the design of a solar car, and so far, they have come up with numerous designs.
The point of ultimate consideration while designing a solar car is the placement of the photovoltaic plates in such a way as to gain the highest amount of sunlight.
The design of the car should be such to provide the best angle and placement of the solar array so that it can utilize maximum sunlight for the production of a good amount of voltage to run the engine.
In doing so, at times, the aesthetics are to be neglected, so a large area should be devoted to the solar plates to fulfill the high-power need of the car.
The prime component in building a solar car is the photovoltaic plates or, at times, the single cells for the design’s sake.
These photovoltaic cells are incorporated into the solar car and utilized in such a way as to receive solar energy and transfer it into electrical power.
A single solar cell generates current up to the range of 3 Amp with 0.5 voltage and can be aligned with other cells to make a set for producing a certain amount of voltage.
Using a photovoltaic plate will also provide you with a higher range of current and voltage.
While assembling the solar cells or plates, it’s advisable to divide them into different zones at different angles so that when the direction of the car or sunlight changes, at least one zone should still be exposed to the sunlight for voltage production.
The photovoltaic cells or panels produce a certain amount of voltage that varies according to sun exposure and does not necessarily match the system voltage required by the solar car.
It is, therefore, an indispensable option to install power trackers.
Power trackers perform the intelligent function of absorbing the voltage from the photovoltaic panels and converting it into a steady voltage as per the requirement of the system voltage of the solar car.
The power trackers keep up the constant supply of voltage to the car batteries so that it functions properly in case the car is moving without exposed sunlight for some time.
The Direction Of Sunlight:
The direction of sunlight matters a lot for appropriate exposure of the solar plates.
Mostly the solar plates are set on the car’s roof to get maximum exposure, but that also happens only in mid-afternoon.
Primarily, the solar car receives sunlight at some angle, so it’s better to have photovoltaic cells installed at such angles to obtain maximum sunlight coverage.
Movement Of Car:
The car’s movement also determines the amount of sunlight exposure; the vehicle should be moving in such a direction as to be exposed to a hefty amount of sunlight to get a suitable voltage.
Getting maximum sunlight exposure can be achieved by installing some reflectors, and it is proven that adding reflectors can increase the efficiency of solar panels by up to 30%.
These reflectors will act as small outgrowths around the photovoltaic panels or cells so that they can gather and reflect maximum sunlight toward the solar panel.
As the name suggests, the reflectors are made of shiny and highly reflective materials; their installment demands meticulous working on the angles so that they can reflect the light toward the solar panel.
However, at times they can even act as a hindrance in the way of sunlight by blocking it at some particular angles.
The most used and recommended materials to be used as reflectors are:
- Silver Mylar
- Aluminum foil
- White plastic
After the photovoltaic cells and reflectors are installed according to the need and design of the car, the next step is to store the energy being converted by the power trackers into the required voltage of the engine motor.
This voltage is stored in rechargeable batteries and has a bidirectional quality of current flow.
These batteries store the excess power produced by the solar panels and make it available to the car’s engine, where it is converted into mechanical energy.
These batteries are also qualified to store the kinetic energy injected by applying brakes in the solar car.
There are different types of batteries that are feasible for storing solar power in a solar car as:
- Lithium-ion Batteries
- Lead Acid Batteries
- Nickel Cadmium Batteries
The most prevalent choice in batteries for solar cars is Lithium-ion Batteries, which offer remarkable charging and discharging efficiency and supercharge density and are mostly preferred due to their lightweight.
Lead-acid batteries are preferred in cases where you have to keep in mind a tight budget, and the cherry on top is that it is readily available in the market and performs well.
Another choice for lead-acid batteries; is to use flooded or gel batteries.
Flooded batteries are also called wet batteries, in which the lead and oxide plates are submerged in an electrolyte; initially, sulphuric acid was used in these batteries.
These batteries have high efficiency in absorbing and storing voltage without any threat of exploding due to over-charging.
The shortcoming of the flooded batteries is that they weigh more than the gel batteries.
Gel Batteries have lead and lead oxide in the electrode that is converted into a gel shaped by adding silicon to the sulphuric acid.
This gel consistency makes them lightweight, but the voltage is to be kept under strict check to avoid any swelling or exploding of the battery.
The batteries installed in the car should be directly proportional to the voltage required by the motor engine’s system voltage.
The battery’s voltage should always match the system’s voltage and have enough storage to make it function smoothly.
State Of Charge Meter:
Another important device in the solar car is the state of charge meter that gives a complete record of the voltage produced, used, available amperes, and the time remaining on the battery for running the car.
This will be an additional instrument in the solar vehicle other than the speed-o-meter that will keep you briefed about the status of the solar car.
Attributes Affecting The Solar Car:
Making the solar car requires considering many attributes affecting the vehicle’s working.
As the solar car is dependent on solar power production, many functions of the vehicle are hampered by the non-availability of light.
Without sunlight exposure, the car won’t be able to generate an appropriate amount of solar power and will be useless.
The vehicle’s weight and size also matter a lot; the more the weight, the more mechanical energy will be required to move it, meaning utilizing more solar power.
There are countries in the world where sun exposure is not as much as to support the whole automobile industry moved to solar power.
This limitation of solar energy-driven cars is still being worked upon to find ways to resolve it.
Maybe this video help you.
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