The history reminder – The First Solar Car
The first car was built in Mannheim, Germany by Karl Benz back there in 1885. Although there were some car examples even before that date, this one is acknowledged as the invention of the modern car due to its own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine.
Further development of automotive technology was very rapid. Merely decade later cars were factory-built and by the beginning of the 20th century the manufacture of affordable automobiles began. It was so rapid that it took only 70 year, just one lifetime, from the first motor car to the first solar car.
It was on August 31, 1955 at the General Motors Powerama auto show held in Chicago, Illinois. That day William G. Cobb of the General Motors (GM) Corporation demonstrated his 38 cm (15 inch) long model called Sunmobile. Despite the fact that it was too small for anyone to drive, the Sunmobile was recognised as the first solar powered car in the world.
A solar vehicle is, by its definition, an electric vehicle powered completely or significantly by direct solar energy. Usually, there are photovoltaic solar panels installed on the car to collect solar energy and convert it to electric energy.
Cobb’s Sunmobile fulfilled the conditions from the solar vehicle definition. It had 12 photovoltaic solar cells installed onto the Sunmobile. Those solar cells were connected in series-parallel generating the electric that in turn powered small motor. The motor ran on 1,5 volts, turning the driveshaft and transferring the energy to wheels to move the car forward.
The first full-sized solar car was shown to the public in 1962. It was 50-years old Baker electric car modified by the International Rectifier Corporation to run on solar energy using photovoltaic solar panels installed on the roof of the vehicle. The solar panel contained around 10.640 individual solar cells. That model could reach only small distances despite the battery back-up system.
Twenty years later, in 1977, the Bluebird solar car was built by Alabama University professor Edward Passerini. It was a prototype full scale vehicle and it was supposed to be powered by the photovoltaic solar panels only without the back-up battery set. The Bluebird was exhibited in the Knoxville, TN 1982 World’s Fair but never mass-produced.
In early 2009, according to some reports, Toyota Motor Corp. was secretly developing a totally solar vehicle but due to the crisis and financial problems Toyota’s planned solar car is not expected to come to the market soon.
Today, more than a half century after Cobb’s Sunmobile, a mass-production of solar car hasn’t yet started. Some are flirting with the new car generation by installing solar cells on the vehicle to generate a part of required energy so at least air conditioning, communication devices and other similar car electronics could be powered by solar energy and thus giving the good foundation for a new solar car researches.