Who First Thought About Solar Powered Cars?

Who first thought about solar-powered cars? Not just electric cars, mind you, but cars that run on solar power alone.

Recent news stories have surfaced about Toyota's plans to build solar panels into the roofs of their successful Prius gas/electric hybrids. The additional power would take care of air conditioning.

The new Mindset AG Six50 sedan also sports solar panels for providing power on-the-go. The company claims that 10,000 of them will go on sale in 2009.


(Six50 by Mindset AG)

Still at the prototype stage (indeed, at the moment there’s little else), the car is designed to weigh about 800 kgs and be 4.2m long. It is yet one more auto in the long line of hybrid vehicles trying to be the most efficient method of private transportation. But we have to admit that the lines of the vehicle certainly caught our eye.

The front circular headlights are reminiscent of the 60’s but the rest of the vehicle screams future-forward. The roof comes equipped with solar panels that power the lithium-ion batteries, providing around a 100km drive per charge. The most striking, and possibly coolest, feature? Gullwing doors.

But who first thought about a solely solar-powered vehicle? The vehicle that is widely claimed to be the first example is this DIY model by Alan Freeman of Rugby in England in 1979.


(First solar powered car)

In 1955, what was billed as the world's first solar-powered automobile, designed by William G. Cobb, was demonstrated at the General Motors Powerama in Chicago. However, I believe that this was a small fifteen inch model, called a "sunmobile." But at least the concept was there. It was powered by 12 built-in selenium photoelectric cells. The light was converted into electric current that powered a tiny electric motor with a driveshaft connected to the rear axle by a pulley.

Frankly, I don't know who was first. However, Robert Heinlein's description of the steel tortoise from his 1940 story Coventry is the earliest I know about:

He turned and commenced loading his steel tortoise...

The vehicle he had chosen was not an unreasonable substitute for burros. It was extremely rugged, easy to operate, and almost foolproof. It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof. These drove a constant-load motor, or, when halted, replenished the storage battery against cloudy weather, or night travel...

It could maintain a steady six miles per hour on smooth, level pavement. When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.
(Read more about Heinlein's solar-powered steel tortoise)

Any other references to actual prototypes or references to vehicles prior to 1955 (or 1940) would be appreciated. In recent history, there have been lots of great contests for solar-powered vehicles.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/11/2008)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Vehicle ")

Cattle Avoidance Feature In Indian Autonomous Cars
'The driver went about the business of gently slipping the teflon-coated metal scoop beneath the first animal...' - Allan Dean Foster, 2006.

Tesla Autopilot's 40 Percent Crash Reduction
''I hope all those other cars are on automatic,' he said anxiously.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1976

Cormorant Flying Car
'The cab came floating down out of the sky...' - James Blish, 1957.

Star Wars Speeder Bikes! On Water, By Jetovator
'Hey, wait!' Now, you don't need to say that.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

TALOS Exoskeleton Development Proceeding
'Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla...'

Autonomous Robots Navigate Like Rats
'Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted.'

SINTEF Robot Cleans Solar Panels
'The window cleaners, with large padded feet...'

Pangorin Restaurant Service Robots
What'll you have? Jawa juice?

Drug Creates Real Melanin Tan
I've used them all my life...

Medical Drones Hover Like Angels Near You
'The death-reversal equipment is on its way...'

SkEye Amazing Israeli Gigapixel Drone
'An eye that could not only see, but fly...'

How Rude! DARPA Wants Robots To Behave More Like Threepio
'Do I know protocol? Why, it's my primary function.'

'Liquid Light' Flows Around Corners
Light as a superfluid.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.'

Buddy Companion Robot Your Bulbous Friend
'Nanny was built in the shape of a sphere, a large metal sphere, flattened on the bottom...'

Poli-X1 Prototype Bee Pollinator
Is there anything drones can't do?

Bake in Space Bake-Off... In Space!
'A joyous condition commenced for the cook in the electric kitchen...'

DeepMind AI Baffled By Homer Simpson, Needs Human Help
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off...'

Does Earth's Middle Mantle Hold Oceans Of Water?
Al Gore, you have no idea.

Vaccine Blocks Heroin High
'You're biochemically incapable of getting off...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.