By Green Diva Bobbi Peterson
Ever since its invention in the late 1800s, the automobile has continually evolved. From the early workings of the Model T to the racecars and sleek Porsches of the modern era, the car has changed drastically. However, what hasn’t really changed is what powers it.
For the majority of the automobile’s existence, gasoline has been the fuel source. Early on, people didn’t have a problem with gasoline. They knew it ran the car, so how can it be bad? As technology and society slowly matured, people became much more aware of the environmental hazards that came with gas. Recently, a heavy push has been made to utilize a new type of energy source: solar power.
The Beginning of Solar Power
The idea of solar-powered cars is relatively new. However, solar power itself has been around for quite some time. Solar power was actually discovered in the 1800s. Edmond Becquerel, a French scientist, made the discovery while studying subjects such as magnetism, the solar spectrum, electricity and optics. With this unraveling of what would be known as the photovoltaic effect, Becquerel opened up an entire new world of science.
With the discovery of solar cells, Einstein would heavily contribute to the field as well. The 1950s would be the next time solar energy would pop up in mainstream society. This time, though, solar energy was being used to power a satellite – a novelty at the time. After the launch of the Vanguard 1 weather space satellite, solar power began to integrate into society.
Solar-powered houses were constructed. Windmills and turbines would soon follow. Naturally, as the effects of gasoline were being discovered, people looked toward solar power as a viable alternative. However, how realistic is a solar-powered car? Will we see one in our lifetime? The answers may surprise you. Because yes, it is realistic – and yes, you will see one in your lifetime.
Rise of the Electric Vehicle
One of the main reasons the concept of solar-powered vehicles is so realistic is due to the rise in electric vehicles. About 20 years ago, an electric car was a dream. Good intentions were there, but the technology wasn’t. A lot has changed since them. Electric vehicles, while not common, are available for sale. Models such as the BMW I series and the Chevrolet Spark EV are vehicles that run 100 percent on electricity. These cars are extremely cheap to fuel. For instance, the 2013 Nissan Leaf costs $2.61 to fill the tank.
Along with the cars that are fueled by pure electricity, hybrids are another type of vehicle that uses electricity. These vehicles actually combine the use of electricity with gasoline.
The electric car is important because it serves as a fantastic stepping stone to cars run by solar power.
The 1950s Weren’t Ready for Solar Power
More than the technology, the fact is that solar-powered cars have already been made. The first solar-powered car was actually released in Chicago, in 1955. Around the time of the first solar-powered satellite, the first solar-powered car was also making headlines. However, the car never seemed to catch on. Why not?
The ‘50s were a time of technological achievements and advancements, but gasoline was simply easier. Electricity was being used to light homes and power televisions. Add to the story the idea that the technology just wasn’t viable enough, and you’ll understand why the solar-powered car didn’t become a staple in society. Today, with phones smaller than our hands and more powerful than some computers, the technology is advanced enough to make solar-powered cars at great quality, for a great price.
With a new technology, expenses quickly follow. The first Apple computer cost $2,495. Adjusted for inflation, that ancient form of technology would cost $5,778.77 in today’s money. Advances in technology lead to cheaper sales prices as the products become more and more popular. Computers are a great example of this. The more common the computer became, thanks to the increasing ability to make and distribute them, the more it sold. The laws of supply and demand come into effect.
Into the Future
The bottom line is that solar-powered cars are viable. Some electric cars even have solar panels fitted on them. With the rise in electric vehicles, expect to see a purely run on solar car in your lifetime. Welcome to the future.
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