Ages ago, it was composed of a wooden board with four wheels and an umbrella on its top run by Fred Flintstone’s legs to speed up or slow down while moving from one place to another.
Centuries later, in the era of explorations and innovations, this wooden shape was further developed to become what is called the “automobile”.
Automobiles were demonstrated as early as 1769, but it was 1885 that marked the introduction of gasoline powered internal combustion engines, when Gottlieb Daimler invented what is often recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine – with a vertical cylinder, and with gasoline injected through a carburetor (patented in 1887). Daimler first built a two-wheeled vehicle the “Reitwagen” (Riding Carriage) with this engine and a year later built the world’s first four-wheeled motor vehicle.
Enter the digital era and a new millennium where shuttles have invaded outer space and cars run through voice command, where a whole new generation of vehicles have been introduced, among which the solar electric cars.
While nowadays, experts, scientists and researchers warn of a close shortage of oil and natural gas resources and call for alternatives, have you ever thought of turning your vehicle into a solar electric one?
The first totally solar-powered vehicle (SPV) was built in 1977. It was small, lightweight, and cost relatively little. Experimental SPV’s, equipped with advanced technology, have been built with the backing of major auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, and Honda.
SPVs use photovoltaic (PV) cells in order to convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity goes either directly to an electric motor, powering the vehicle, or to a special storage battery. PV cells produce electricity only when the sun is shining. Without sunlight, a solar-powered car depends on electricity stored in its batteries.
Although solar energy is an unlimited resource, it is not always available when it’s needed, “the sun must be shining”. So, imagine when the weather is cloudy and rainy!
Applying this imaginary-yet possible- idea in Egypt, what will happen if all vehicles were turned into solar electric ones?
Charging your car to go for an open air picnic with your friends on a sunny day and all of a sudden, while driving on the high way, it starts raining and thick clouds cover the sun and your battery runs out. In this case you will need either to return once more to the days of the Flintstone’s or to wait for the sun rise.
As a matter of fact, in our daily life, most of us, if not all, have encountered some problems while driving their cars, such as running out of fuel. In such case, you park your car, call someone to buy you fuel or simply ask a stranger to give you some out of his car. But, what if you own a solar car?
Assuming that officials prohibited any kind of traffic after the sunset to solve the problem of low “solar-charge”, these cars still necessitate a large amount of surface area on the top to be used solely for solar power PV cells. Therefore, Egyptian families can no longer travel in groups during summer vacations, as their cars will be overloaded as usually with tons of bags on the top blocking the sun rays and therefore “Oops! Sorry your car is not “solar” charged enough to reach Alexandria!”
We should however be thankful that we do not live in the North Pole or Alaska with the Eskimos where for six months sun rays will never be enough to charge the cells. After all, our country is widely known for its sunny days almost all throughout the year. (Oh yeah, and that’s assuming that there are other modes of transportation in the North Pole besides dog sleds!)
Now back to science, regardless the drawbacks and difficulties of commercially selling this type of car, it still possesses some advantages. SPVs have few moving parts and service requirements are less than for conventional cars. It is also environmentally-friendly since it produces no emissions.
However, the question remains, what will happen if all vehicles, for instance in Egypt, were suddenly turned into SPVs?
Imagined By Yomna Bassiouni