Monday, August 17, 2015

Where is my Solar-Powered Minivan? has an overview page for each of the major types of alternative fuel vehicles: all-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell. Editor Assen Gueorguiev asked me to write one about solar-powered cars.

How does solar power work? Can a useful passenger car be powered by photovoltaic cells? I found the answer and it's almost yes. Please read on.

The Quest for Solar Powered Cars
Originally published at

We are currently traveling over 66,000 miles per hour around a giant nuclear reaction that produces 5x1023 horsepower per second. Let's plug our cars into that.

It's not that simple, but we're working on it. Occam's Razor states that the simplest answer is usually the best one. When did we decide that pumping oil from inside the Earth, refining it into gasoline to run our vehicles with, while releasing poisonous fumes, was the simplest answer?

How Solar Works

The modern photovoltaic cell is built mostly of silicon with some phosphorous and boron. Each silicon atom has fourteen electrons arranged within three shells. The first shell holds two electrons and the second holds eight. Both shells are full. The third holds four but is only half full. The atom wants to fill these holes so it eagerly shares electrons with neighboring atoms.

This is how molecular bonds are formed. Each silicon atom shares an electron with four of its neighbors, forming a solid crystalline structure. This makes pure silicon a poor conductor of electricity because the secured electrons don't want to flow. Impurities are necessary. Phosphorous and boron are added, making up about one out of every million particles.

Learn about the World Solar Challenge, the Ford C-Max Solar Energi and all of its predecessors.


  1. Nice post. This is very useful. I learned some new information. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thank you, Theja. I apologize if this site has stalled as fast as it has started. The tremendously ironic truth is that I started working for BMW with the hope of selling the i3, then no longer had time or energy to write. I'm sticking my CHAdeMO charger back in my chest and defibrillating my true self now.