A 100% Solar Electric Vehicle: Applying high efficiency solar modules in sustainable transport

Semiahmoo Secondary School
Natasha Burgert


As our planet suffers the effects of climate change, it is only a matter of time before society will have to centre all aspects of development around sustainability. In the past, clean solutions for transportation have been dismissed due to the higher cost, and lower efficiency than fossil fuels. However, in the past few decades, there has been a steep decline in solar module cost, and and a steady climb towards higher efficiency. From my findings in this project, I have concluded that we are now at a point where we can embrace the clean, renewable potential which our sun offers. I have created and tested a proof-of concept electric vehicle (Solar EV), which can run indefinitely during daylight hours, provided sunny conditions. There are several mechanical features of my project which highlight the potential that renewable energy in transportation can have. Firstly the vehicle’s 500W motor is powered by 3 100W solar modules, and 3 50W modules, for a total of 450W or power generation. This means that when driving at anything less than 90% throttle, the Solar EV can run continuously without needing to stop to charge or refuel. Another design mechanism installed in the vehicle are three 12V lead acid batteries. These batteries allow the Solar EV to be powered for over 1.5 hours, which is useful during cloudy conditions, night, and most importantly, when driving through areas of shade. A unique efficiency component designed into my vehicle is the linear actuator I installed into the module racking system. This design element allows the tilt of the modules to be altered, to maximize the efficiency of the solar module array. At early or late hours of the day, it can be heavily tilted with the press toggle switch, or kept at a relatively flat level when the sun is the highest in the sky. I ran a series of trials to figure out whether or not the theoretical data matches up with the experimental results. After my series of trials, the bike was yet to run out of power. The solar vehicle reaches speeds up to 32 km/h, however comfortably glides at around 25 km/h. The linear actuator I installed allows the solar modules’ tilt to change . During different times of day or year, the sun is at different heights in the sky, however it is very important to maximize the solar potential. With the press of a switch, the module can be actuated to account for this. Lastly, regenerative braking captures the energy from braking. Using the reversible nature of a DC motor with a specialized motor controller responding to feedback from the brake actuators allows the vehicle to reuse energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat.

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