May 4, 2018

The Autonomous Solar Vehicle

Eclectic, an autonomous urban vehicle powered by solar energy.

"Every 24 hours, enough sunlight touches the Earth to provide the energy for the entire planet for 24 years."
- Martha Maeda 

The solar car is here, almost. While still in the prototype phase, the solar car is a vehicle that recharges its batteries partially or totally through solar energy.

These vehicles are known as "autonomous" since ultimately they will not rely on any external power source. So far though, the photovoltaic modules installed on the vehicle do not make it possible to ensure total autonomy, but they contribute to it.

While electric vehicles are rapidly changing the transportation sector, the pure solar car could one day appear on our roads. But not quite yet. In the meantime, current electric cars have a lot to offer, although purchase price is often not one of their main selling points.

A recent study found that electric cars still cost significantly more to buy than gasoline-powered vehicles of the same size and capabilities.

However, it also found that plug in cars are almost always cheaper to run per kilometre/mile, and often by a significant multiple. And eventually, as more people adopt non-gasoline cars, prices will come down.

Electric cars also require less maintenance than gas powered cars, which would lower operating costs over the life of the vehicle.

That all sounds great, but imagine not having to worry about charging stations, or coal/gas/nuclear powered electricity generation, or high electricity prices.

It may not be long before our vehicles run on completely pure, clean, free and renewable solar power. 

Advantages of Solar Electric Vehicles:

  • No emission of gases and harmful particulates 
  • No fossil fuels required
  • Very low operating costs
  • Good for short distance trips

Disadvantages of Solar Electric Vehicles:

  • Currently have low autonomy (prototypes need supplemental plug in power)
  • Car must be very light
  • High initial purchase price
  • Not appropriate for long distance trips, or hauling heavy loads
  • They look more like a golf cart than a sexy sports car, or macho truck (hold on, is that really a disadvantage?)


  1. Anonymous5/06/2018

    Hello Gregg,

    this is an exciting development! However, lately I have come to the conclusion that most of us, most of the time, will have to stop driving cars. It seems like a radical idea, but I just don't believe that a life based on 'convenience' can continue indefinitely. My yard stick is - if everyone on the planet did it, would it be sustainable? Very often the answer is no.

    I have come to similar conclusions about electricity use. Even if everyone on the planet powered their house with solar, there is still the embodied energy in the panels, and of course the toxic waste and disposal/recycling issues. The 'convenience' that all that electricity has given us has enabled people to become lazy, overweight and addicted to screens. It has also caused people to become isolated in their own homes (you can watch it on a screen, find it on the computer, order it in - no need to go out into society). So in my home we are gradually phasing out electrical items as they break to see how little can we live with and still have a satisfying life.

    Needless to say my ideas are seen as very radical by most people! It would be wonderful to see everyone at least cut back significantly on what they use. The solar cars would be great for people in isolated areas or people with mobility issues, in the same way that plastics could be reserved for medical uses only.


    1. Madeleine,

      Radical times call for radical solutions, and I agree with all of yours. I particularly like the phasing our of electrical items. Even more than that, though, I would like to phase out our motor vehicle ownership. It would be a game changer for Linda and I, but I think we are up for the challenge.

      I would love to not have the hassle and high cost of running a vehicle, especially when we have not been driving much in recent years anyways. But I can see it coming for us.

      I have always had a love/hate relationship with car ownership. Mostly hate though, and that is growing as time passes. And convenience is the core problem, which is little recognized. There is always a steep price to pay in the pursuit of convenience, although it is not often obvious.

      We are going to have to stop lots of things if we are to survive. Hope your fall is going well.

  2. Madeleine, I love your radical ideas! Even if I don't fully and perfectly do all that Gregg writes about or that are suggested in comments, I'm doing a lot and fully committed to keep moving in that direction. Radical, out-of-the-box ideas are always appreciated. This blog is a momentum seeding and sustaining ground! I had no idea we could power ourselves for 24 years on just 24 hours of sunlight the earth receives. Holy cow that is a lot of solar power! I'm down to only using 3 squares of toilet paper!

    Another note: it might not be the best choice to ask a company that sells you power for power saving tips! It is advertised here that someone from the power company can come to your home and make suggestions about how you can save electricity. Beware! Remember they are the ones selling you power, they make money when you use their electricity!

    1. Terri,

      You do know how to conserve resources. It is an important life skill at any time.


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