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Travelling Using Solar Power

It probably will not surprise you to read that solar panels are now being used in some form to provide power to cars, boats and planes. As technology develops, solar photovoltaic power will no doubt expand within the transport sector.

Land based solar powered travel

Next month, the World Solar Challenge is to take place once again in Australia with over 20 solar powered cars racing against each other. Cambridge University has put together a vehicle to take part in the 3,000 km race with a team of 60 students involved in the project. The vehicle is called Resolution and has a glass cover and looks like a teardrop. It is only 4.5 metres in length, 1.1 metres high and 0.8 metres in width. The solar panels are able to move to catch the sunlight. It is capable of reaching 140km per hour.
It will be interesting to see how quickly cars are produced on a commercial basis to be used by the public. In Holland, a prototype family car has been revealed that is capable of making a 420-mile journey when the sun is shinning but will even do 250 miles without any sun.

Sea based solar powered travel

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is the world’s biggest solar powered boat being 31 metres in length. It is covered with solar panels over an area of 500 square metres that provide power to two of the electric motors. Within the two hulls are lithium-ion batteries weighing 8.5 tons. The boat is capable of reaching a speed of 14 knots. It was launched in March 2010 and in September of that year started out from Monaco to travel around the world completing the circumnavigation in May 2012. Whilst on this trip it laid claim to two records – it travelled the furthest of any solar electric vehicle and it made the fastest Atlantic crossing of a solar powered boat.

Air based solar powered travel

The Solar Impulse
(image credit: EdMullin)

The Solar Impulse plane has a wingspan of 63m, weighs only 1,600kg, can cruise at an altitude of 8,500m and has 11,628 solar cells on its bodywork that provide power for its 4 propellers as well as charging the lithium-ion batteries weighing 400kg. It is capable of flying at a top speed of 70km/h. On 3rd May 2013 it crossed America starting from San Francisco making a number of stops in Phoenix, Arizona, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and St Louis, Missouri landing at New York’s JFK airport on the 6th July 2013. It flew both during the day and night. A second Solar Impulse is being built with a view to attempting to travel around the world in 2015.

We shall continue to keep you updated as and when similar projects take place.

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