Renewable energy is the buzzword of the day. Conservation of fossil fuel is of utmost importance in today’s world. We are constantly on the lookout for efficiently designed infrastructure, gadgets, and vehicles that allow us to make use of alternate energy sources that are sustainable; and what better source than solar energy can come to our aid? In a unique approach to save fuel, three wheeler vehicles (trikes) powered by solar energy are now being showcased.
Let’s take a look at a few such vehicles that boast of eco-friendliness, while they may not really be a comfortable mode of travel as yet.
1. Sunswift Ivy
This solar powered car is the fastest such vehicle in the world today, with a record speed of 55.077 mph. Designed by the students of the University of New South Wales, this vehicle has a chassis made from carbon fiber, uses about 1200 W of power generated by its solar cells, and is run by a three-phase CSIRO DC motor of 1800 W capacity. It is also fitted with a 24.75 kg lithium ion polymer battery source.
Built by the students of the Electrical and Computer engineering Department of the State
University of New York located in New Paltz, and designed by MIT’s Solar Electric Vehicle group, this light-weight vehicle comprises an aluminum frame plastered with solar cells, draped with a combination of carbon fiber, Nomex, and Kevlar, and runs on a three-phase electric motor based on solar power. The $250,000 vehicle’s lithium iron phosphate battery takes about four hours to get fully charged by the power generated from the silicon cells. This sturdy trike can travel all day long at decent speeds, and is expected to achieve 90 mph with technological advancements.
3. Nuna 4
Voted the fastest solar powered car in Scandinavia for the year 2004, it has been a while since the latest model of the Nuna family, Nuna 4 hit the roads in 2007. Though its speed dropped from the original 105 mph, the design has improved from that of Nuna 2, which resembled an airplane’s wing to a cabin that can house the driver in a seated position, and also provided a steering wheel to control the vehicle.
4. The Continuum
With looks that compete with a barrel, this narrow, feather-weight vehicle, lined with 2726 solar cells on the upper portion of its exterior surface, has been designed with a single aim to achieve maximum distance using solar power within a given time frame. The vehicle is operated by controls located on the carbon-fiber steering wheel. Built by the students of the University of Michigan, the project is funded by a two-year budget of $2.4 million.
5. Solar-powered ATV
The brainchild of Gadi Dudler, this trike is capable of handling all terrains with equal ease. The roof of the cabin is lined with solar cells that generate the required power and this is complemented by electric engines at the rear wheels. The power for electric engine in the front wheel comes from a spoiler unit fitted on the cabin.
6. Gazelle 2
Originating from Iran, this single seater, weighing about 150 kg can travel at speeds up to 120 km/hour. With a solid plating of solar cells on its body, the vehicle is capable of traversing about 600 km during the course of a perfect sunny day. However, it doesn’t look too comfortable.
7. Solar Cycle
This vehicle is in effect a motorcycle having three wheels, designed to run on a 9′ pancake motor powered by silicon cells. With speed up to 60 km/hour, the body of the vehicle has been built using plastic and ultra-light aluminum. Despite being a two-seater, the motorcycle also provides sufficient storage space.
8. Greenhouse 2000 SolarCycle
This vehicle from Greenhouse 2000, Inc. in Orlando, Florida is a light-weight solar powered motorcycle that has an air-conditioned driver’s cabin. A prototype of this unit is already licensed in Florida and will be commercially available on a small scale in 2013. The SolarCycle can be operated at a speed of 40 mph during the day for an indefinite time period; however, it can reach up to only a maximum of 85 mph at any given time.
This bike is already licensed and is available in three different designs, an 85-watt Front Mount model, a 170-watt Canopy model, both single seaters; and a 255-watt tandem model twin seater. Each and every model is capable of speeds ranging from 12-16 mph in broad daylight. The bikes are also fitted with pedals that can be used to augment the speed.
10. Solar Electric Trike
This trike created by Josh Hadar, a New York based sculptor, is an eco-friendly model for commuting in and around the city. Powered by six 125-watt solar panels, the vehicle speed is about 45 mph maximum. It uses a 15 hp Mars Electric motor and houses four 12-volt lead-acid batteries.