Imagine driving a car that needs nothing more than a few hours of sunlight to fully charge a 200+ mile battery pack. Sounds like science fiction, but researchers at the Queensland University of Technology say that thanks to their breakthrough, it EVs powered by the sun could be on the road in just five years.
The key is a super-thin supercapacitor with high energy density and light weight that could be applied to the body panels of production cars. The supercapacitor is a thin strip of electrolyte that’s sandwiched between two all-carbon electrodes in a thin and strong film. While not nearly as dense as a standard lithium-ion battery, the supercapacitor can charge and discharge energy a lot more rapidly.
This means the battery pack could be charged in just a few minutes of being plugged in or a few hours in the sunshine. The supercapacitors will have enough wer to temporarily boost the performance of an electric car, allowing the driver to make a passing maneuver without using any extra energy from the battery. This would mean less fluctuation in the estimated driving range should you need to pass a long convoy of semi-trucks or go up a steep hill.
Volvo had a similar idea about four years ago, but the technology to apply it to production vehicles may finally be maturing, though Mercedes thinks such technology is still a couple of decades away. A car powered by the sun and built by Australian engineering students just drove over 300 miles at highway speeds though, so if you ask me, the truth is probably somewhere in-between.
While the supercapacitors won’t be able to fully charge an EV on their own right off the bat, in an ideal future not all that far away, solar powered body panels could make plugging in a thing of the past. I’ll probably see them in my lifetime, among the many other sci-fi inventions on the cusp of becoming a reality. Who knows, a solar-powered car might even help power my future home one day in the not-too-distant future.