Advances in Solar Powered Race Cars

Close up shot of a car against sunset in the background

So you have an interest in automotive careers, but are looking for a new challenge? There is a modern classification of vehicles which has only been in development for twenty years, and this is the solar powered car. Most solar cars built these days are done so exclusively for the purpose of racing. The goal is to develop solar powered cars which reach the same speeds as contemporary vehicles, and thus can be used on city streets and highways.

Fast Facts about Solar Race Cars

  • A solar car is powered by photovoltaic cells (PV), which convert solar energy into electricity.
  • The battery is capable of storing surplus solar energy for when there is no sun.
  • The record for fastest solar powered vehicle is 88.738 km/hr, achieved by the Australian designed Sunswift IV.
  • Motors of a solar race car vary from 3 to 6 horsepower.
  • A solar car will generally use 1300 watts of energy from the sun when racing—about the same energy as a microwave oven.

Schools Lead the Design and Racing of Solar Cars

A majority of solar powered car design takes place right in universities and colleges. In fact, most schools championing solar race car design in North America also have a race team that competes in international race competitions, such as World Solar Challenge in Australia and the Formula Sun Grand Prix, which takes place in the United States.

Berkeley solar car at American Solar Challenge

A solar race car team is almost as large as a motor race car team, and usually involves the members who designed the car and worked on its construction. There are a few variables and many kinks still to work out when it comes to racing a solar car, so it helps to have those who built it right on the track with the driver.

Designing a Solar Race Car

There are a few variations for a solar car in comparison to the typical motor race car design. The frame of these race cars is built specifically to hold a large flat frame of solar panels on top. This structure maximizes the amount of sunlight hitting the solar panels. As the power of solar cars is still considerably less than motor cars, they are often designed as flat as possible for maximum aerodynamics. Many solar race cars use military grade carbon fibre to mold the body, making for a lightweight vehicle.

Be a Part of the Solar Revolution

If you have intentions of studying as an auto technician, consider the possibilities of working with solar race cars. Not only is this a challenging field of modern technology, but it is a progressive step forward in the world`s quest for environmental sustainability. A good start would be to research the various auto mechanic courses which can get you started on the necessities of vehicle design and mechanics.

To get a look at what we`re dealing with, here’s a video of the Sunswift IV, the world`s fastest solar car, in action:

Form is submitting