Solar EVs

Why does a sedan or SUV have to have a useless roof or trunk when those surfaces might be used for something more productive?

I’ve always wondered why EV manufacturers didn’t simply attach PVs to the skin of their cars.  Well, it’s now happening.  Here’s a report about a new version of EVs that is now coming out.  The three manufacturers in this report are not mainstream companies, though they have been around for a while.  My guess is that as their sales take off, one of the large mainstream manufacturers will buy them out.  Money-saving comments afterwards.


o        o        o        o        o        o


Why solar electric vehicles might

be the next generation of EVs


Katie Brigham @KATIE_BRIGHAM


22 November 2022


The world’s first commercial solar electric vehicles are hitting the U.S. and European markets in the next few years. German company Sono Motors, Southern California-based Aptera Motors, and Dutch company Lightyear are all producing electric vehicles with integrated solar panels, which can harness the sun’s power to provide around 15-45 additional miles on a clear day.

These vehicles also have regular, lithium-based batteries that can be charged using electricity from the grid, so for longer drives these cars essentially function like a standard EV. But for commuters and other short-distance drivers, the majority of their miles could be fueled almost entirely from the sun, free of charge.

Dan Kammen, professor of energy at U.C. Berkeley, said he expects this tech will make good financial sense for many consumers.  Kammen said …


“Solar panels are so inexpensive

and integrating them into the skins

is so easy that once you get over

that initial learning curve, those

initial couple thousand vehicles out

there, it’s hard for me to envision

that this won’t be cost-effective.”



The cars coming to market

 The Sono Sion, which is expected to begin production in Europe in mid-2023, is priced starting at just $25,000. Its battery has a 190-mile range, and while the car also has 465 integrated solar half-cells on its exterior, the boxy, five-seat hatchback appears unassuming and practical.

Sono Motors co-CEO and co-founder Laurin Hahn said …


“So this car gives you per year 5,700

miles free of charge, you know, free

of any costs, because it comes from

the sun. This is roughly 15 miles a

day, which is perfect for commuters.”


He said that when the Sion hits the U.S. market, it will make for an ideal second vehicle.

In terms of looks, Aptera’s vehicle is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Sono’s. Aptera’s zippy three-wheeler seats two, has motors in the wheels for greater efficiency, and is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. It’s set to begin production in the U.S. next year.  Aptera CEO Chris Anthony, said …


“When you start with aerodynamics

as the basis for your vehicle, you end

up with something that looks very

different than everything else on the

road. I mean, our vehicle looks more

like a bird or a fish than it does al-

most anything else on the road today.”


Depending on range and other optional features, the Aptera costs between $26,000 and $48,000. Because it’s so lightweight, Aptera’s premium model has a lithium-ion battery with a 1,000-mile range. Its base model has a 250-mile range, before the 30 or so miles from solar that Anthony said you’ll get on an average Southern California day.

Then there’s the Lightyear 0, which is expected to hit the roads in Europe by the end of this year. Like Aptera, the Lightyear has in-wheel motors and was designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. But while the vehicle’s body is sleek, the Lightyear seats five and looks much more like a typical car. Its lithium-ion battery gets 390 miles per charge, with an average of 20 or so additional miles from solar, up to nearly 45 miles.

Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot said the company is targeting customers who would not normally have considered buying an electric vehicle …


“A lot of the reasons why people are not

switching to EVs are charging and range,

and they’re not at the same level as a

combustion car today. So we’re going to

a level where actually you have to re-

charge less than you would have to re-

fuel when you had the combustion car.”


The Lightyear 0 will cost a whopping $250,000, but Hoefsloot said that’s because the initial model is a limited release. When production scales and the Lightyear 2 hits the market in 2025, Hoefsloot said, it will cost $30,000.



The future of solar electric cars 

It may be a while before we start seeing other automakers incorporating solar into their electric vehicles, though, since just slapping solar panels on many larger, heavier vehicles might not provide enough power to justify the added cost, however small.  Hoefsloot said …


Manufacturers nowadays have chosen the

kind of lazy man’s approach to building

electric cars, where if they want more range,

they put in a bigger battery. And more and

more manufacturers are starting to realize

that the bigger battery will still remain very

expensive going into the future. So efficiency

really is the way to increase that range

without needing to pay for a large battery.”


Because top-of-the-line solar panels are only about 22% efficient, and the small surface area of these cars limits how many panels they can have, these first-generation solar electric cars won’t support long-distance drives. But as technologies such as solar glass, which can turn windows into solar panels, improve, Kammen sees a future where driving 80 or 100 miles on solar power alone is a possibility.  He said …


“It really builds into this idea that as we

electrify transportation, we’re not actually

going to be stressing the grid. More vehicles

themselves can be more and more autonomous.

And in the end, I think we’re going to be selling

electricity out of our solar cars back into the grid.”


o        o        o        o        o        o


I thought I’d add another idea to consider … if you have full sun on some part of your home or site …


  • Let’s assume you were to buy a $30,000 EV, such as the brands mentioned here, or an e-Chevy, or one of the others. After your $7500 solar tax rebate, your actual cost would be $22,500.
  • PV installations, installed, are running about $5,000/kW. We provide a 3Kw array as standard on our Garden Atrium homes, which provides 100% of their power.  A 5Kw array takes care of both home and EV.  If you were to add a 5Kw PV array to your home, it would cost about $25,000.  Subtracting the 30% solar tax credit, your actual cost would be $17,500.
  • Adding the $22,500 and $17,500, your monthly payment on a mortgage of $40,000 at 6% – today’s higher rates – you’d be paying only $240/month for a new car and all the power you’d need for both your car and your home.  (And you keep or sell your old car.)  How’s that for saving money?


I know a lot of people who wonder if they can afford all this transition to more sustainable living.  I’m finding it’s not just better for the environment, it’s also a lot less expensive.  I’ve been driving my EV and living in a new Garden Atrium, with a 5Kw array, for five years; my energy bills are essentially gone.  Fuel producers and utility companies want our money; the sun doesn’t.

Comments are closed.