The Solar Car Revolution Could Change EVs Forever

[Music] for centuries now countless inventors and innovators have tried to harness the power of the sun sometime in the next century solar energy might make a large contribution to energy needs and today the dream of using solar energy to power transportation is pushing automotive technology to its limits it was right around late 2005 where i became obsessed with the very idea of this vehicle by building a solar car you get this constraint that you're limited in the amount of energy you have but building a practical solar car one that could actually compete with fossil fuel vehicles and today's evs has never really seemed possible until now [Music] so it started out of my garage like lots of southern california companies do aptera was really started based on an obsession with efficiency yeah so actually it all started back in 2012 when the ceo of lightyear gave me a call and he told me yeah we're going to participate in the world solar challenge for years now these two have been driven to build the world's first commercial solar powered car yeah so i'm io valencia co-founder and chief technology officer at leicester my name is steve famrow and i'm the co-ceo of aptera motors what aptera and lightyear are working on can revolutionize the auto industry and transform transportation the leicester one is a solar powered family car it has five seats it has a five square meter solar panel amterra is a solar electric vehicle that has solar cells on virtually every square meter surface of the vehicle now you may have already seen solar cars with similar out of this world designs before but these vehicles aren't just attention-grabbing concept cars or experimental solar racers built for competition these cars are designed and engineered for the everyday commute having the solar cells on the vehicle lets us park it in the sun and charge it while you're at work while you're shopping or whatever so if you drive 12 000 miles per year something like that like most people do you might never have to plug it in at all you might just drive to working back and the car pretty much stays full you can drive about 10 000 miles a year in the bay area on the power of the sun i think the average person in that area drives about 13 000 miles a year that's already about 70 percent of the typical usage so while you can plug in to recharge these vehicles you may well not have to what excites me the most about making a commercial solar car is showing to the world that we can be much more efficient with the energy that we have available without having to compromise on the convenience you get every day you may be thinking do we need a commercial solar car after all electric vehicles are more popular than ever with 3 million sold globally in 2020 that's roughly a 40 increase from the previous year well unfortunately due to the lithium ion batteries that they rely on and the electric grids that they use to recharge turns out these zero emission vehicles may not be as sustainable as we need them to be another alternative is to have a solar electric vehicle that reduces the nation's dependence on the grid that uses the sun which is 90 million miles away and works every day so how are these two automakers able to use solar as their car's primary power source according to ario it comes down to balancing a fundamental equation yeah so so basically it comes down to two figures so it's the amount of energy you consume per mile and the amount of energy you generate each year from the sun and if you take a relatively traditional car it's like this so energy consumption energy yield there's a big gap by leveraging the latest advances in solar technology lightyear maximizes energy yield and by focusing on efficiency in their car's design and engineering step by step you get the energy consumption down but it's still not at the same level as as your yield so you also have to work on the other side [Music] light you're focused on three key areas the power train rolling resistance and aerodynamics focus number one the powertrain so there's four motors individually in each wheel which means there's no longer a mechanical drive shaft or a final drive and all of these mechanical components that of course generate friction they add weight you can get rid of all of them this lighter more efficient powertrain of course also reduces rolling resistance focus number two light your 1's body and chassis are also made of lightweight materials like aluminum and carbon fiber allowing the 5 seat family car to tip the scales at an estimated 14 to 1500 kilograms many evs currently on the market are nearly twice as heavy finally there's aerodynamics lighter one is a track coefficient of less than 0.2 so it's really really alone compared to five-seater production cars today on the market keep in mind that in coming up with this aerodynamic design lightyear also had to make room for solar panels seats and take driver and passenger comfort into account not the most aerodynamic shape not a bigger solar panel area so it's not the best in one category but the balance across all of them of course aptera faced the same design and engineering challenges challenges they've been able to overcome thanks to the latest advances in solar technology one of the things that's changed is the efficiency of solar cells and the new solar cells that are available like the ones we use are are so efficient they allow us to do things now that we couldn't do 10 years ago like covering nearly every meter of their car surface and solar cells but aptera also focused on efficiency an approach perhaps best exemplified by their car's aerodynamic design it's really the result of asking what's the most aerodynamic shape that you could put around two people side by side and when i started thinking about building a car and how it would look and how we designed this sort of epiphany of being stuck on the freeway and looking at all the vehicles surrounding me trucks and cars and station wagons and every everything just looked like big bricks to me getting into wire cars boxy why are they styled that way and then why is it necessary to do something different if you really want to make an efficient vehicle steve and his team came up with a radically different design inspired in part by the solar racers they saw in competition [Music] what we did is take that way of thinking as a starting point and then bring in automotive design and say how do we retain the the technical routes and the efficiencies but yet make it a commercially viable vehicle the result a three-wheeled two-seater car with a drag coefficient of 0.13 one that the washington post even compared to the batmobile the side view mirror the square side view mirror on a ford f-150 has about the same amount of drag as our entire vehicle aptera's solar electric vehicle also uses in-wheel motors as well as lightweight composite materials like carbon fiber and a type of fiberglass called e-glass composites let you put more structure and more safe structure with less weight and cost than steel the sleek design efficient powertrain and use of lightweight materials allows for uptera's base model to weigh just 800 kilograms well compared to evs i mean it's it's fractional in one of the evs we drove the other day i think weighs over 6 000 pounds to give you an example i mean that's a tremendous amount of weight a lighter more aerodynamic car means less energy needed to move the vehicle we burn about 100 watt hours per mile and uh to put that in perspective it's much less than a motorcycle by starting with a clean sheet of paper and making something that's efficient from day one and making something that's powered by the sun it felt like it was a way to differentiate ourselves from anything that's out there everyone else is making electric vehicles we're making solar electric vehicles the need for clean sustainable transportation has never been more urgent with the growing realization that today's evs may not get us to net zero fast enough maybe it's time to explore alternative solutions to sustainable transportation should it be something that harnesses the energy directly from the sun should it reduce our use of the grid should it give us more freedom and more autonomy that's the direction i'd like to see it go so i do think that in the long term solar cars will be accessible to everyone and that's where our mission statement comes from clean mobility for everyone everywhere that's what we want to achieve and we see the solar car is the opportunity to make that happen for a deeper dive into solar cars check out lightspeed powered by the sun seeker's eight chapter learning playlist on the technology behind the 2019 world solar challenge

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