More and more car owners are switching to electric cars to save the environment. One way to make your electric car even more eco-friendly is to get one with a solar panel roof.
Solar-powered electric cars have many benefits. They can charge the battery for free to add extra range and help reduce your carbon footprint. But that’s not all; some can even give back the energy they take from your grid– by powering your home during an outage.
Check out the best electric cars with solar panels on the roof, plus their features, if you’re in the market for one.
Solar-Assisted Electric Vehicles (SAEVs): How Do they Work?
Solar-assisted electric vehicles (SAEVs) are a type of electric vehicle (EV) with solar panels. Most carmakers install solar cells on the rooftop. But new versions like the Sion cover the entire vehicle including hoods and doors.
SAEVs generate electricity from the sun to charge the car’s battery. Powerful solar cells can capture enough energy to add more miles to a car’s range. But some solar cells can only manage a little energy to power the onboard electronics.
Either way, this means a little extra energy for your electric car. Moving forward, solar-driven cars may be the future of automotive, according to SAEV enthusiasts like Lightyear.
Some popular SAEV models include Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept and the BMW i8 with embedded solar cells.
Advantages of SAEVs:
- They offer more range to EVs
SAEVs can extend your electric vehicle’s range by a few miles. This is helpful if you must drive your EV a few more miles to reach your destination or a charging point.
- They’re more efficient
Solar-powered cars are more efficient at charging the battery than other EVs because they can use sunlight to charge up.
- They’re cost-effective
SAEVs drive down the cost of electricity by capturing and storing solar energy while parked in the sun.
- They reduce pollution
These cars reduce reliance on the electrical grid, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Some SAEVs can give back power to your grid.
Bidirectional technology allows Solar-assisted electric vehicles to take and give back power to the grid.
- Can provide extra power to charge electronics/devices
Through Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) tech technology, SAEVs can provide extra power to charge devices/electronics on board.
- Excellent performance
If you want to go far in an electric car, it must be at its best performance. SAEV makers want to make their cars as efficient as possible. This means reducing challenges like drag through aerodynamic, lightweight designs and adding boosters like regenerative braking.
Top 10 Electric Cars With Solar Panels On Roof
Aptera is the 2nd fastest electric vehicle after Hyundai Ioniq 5. It goes 0 to 100 kmph in just 3.5 seconds and has an impressive top speed of 177 kmph.
The Aptera Paradigm can travel up to 1000 miles on a single charge. Plus, it’s solar-powered, so you can top it off with extra charging while you’re out and about.
The panels sit on the car’s roof and both hoods. On a normal day, the Aptera’s solar cells produce energy that can drive you up to 100 km. It’s the perfect SAEV for short trips or running errands around town.
The Aptera Paradigm is ideal for anyone after a fast-moving electric car with long-range and fast charging times.
Features & Benefits
- Unique out-of-planet design
- It’s faster than most solar-assisted electric cars
- It’s equipped with safety features
- It has an aerodynamic shape
- Can go up to 40 miles/day on solar power alone
The Aptera does pretty well for a three-wheel solar-assisted electric vehicle and would fit nicely into a futuristic home. It also includes several high-tech features, like a touchscreen display, GPS navigation, etc., to make driving more fun.
2. Humble One
Humble One is a solar-assisted concept car designed to be more affordable and accessible than oldschool EVs. Humble Motors has already raised over $20 million in pre-orders and will start full-scale production in 2024.
The car has an 805 km range on a single charge, but its solar panels can add an extra 96 km to this range.
Features & Benefits
- 0.25 drag co-efficient thanks to its aerodynamic design
- Sleek futuristic look
- 80 square feet of panels on the roof
- Solar panels can extend the driving distance by 96 kilometers
- It has a range of 805km
The company plans to offer a subscription-based service that will make it even more affordable by bundling charging, maintenance, and insurance into one monthly payment.
The Humble One is the perfect solution if you’re looking for a convenient way to switch to sustainable transportation. But that’s only if you’re comfortable parting with $109,000.
3. Sono Sion
This feature-rich solar-assisted electric SUV can seat up to five people. Sono Motors is yet to begin full-scale production, but buyers can pre-order through its official website.
Sono Sion covers up to 250 miles, and you can charge it using your standard 120-volt outlet. It also has solar panels pretty much everywhere– across the roof, doors, and hoods. These cells capture solar power adding a few miles of range per day.
The Sono Sion’s solar unit contains 456 half cells, which trap solar energy that can add up to 250 km per week to its range. According to the carmaker, the solar cells give the SUV a “unique and efficient way to use solar energy, adding extra convenience for short distances.”
Features & Benefits
- Range of 250 miles plus an extra 30 miles/day
- Shorter charging time than most EVs
- Spacious and excellent for families
- It has a simple build hence low repair costs
- It can serve as a backup power source thanks to its bidirectional wallbox
- Futuristic car with a smartphone app that opens windows and lets you sell mobility and energy services.
- Bidirectional charging so you can share your power or recieve energy from other Sion owners.
Plus, the charging process is super fast. It takes 35-40 minutes to achieve an 80% charge. When not at home, you can charge across any station. And if your power runs out, you can borrow from another Sion– thanks to the car’s bidirectional tech.
But the Sono Sion is not your average SAEV. It’s the only electric car that can serve as a backup power source for your home. The car’s bidirectional tech allows you to draw energy from your vehicle for up to 5 days. So, is that something you want to try?
4. Lightyear One
Lightyear is a new company in the Auto-world. The Dutch carmaker has released the longest-driving car on solar panels alone– dabbed the Lightyear One.
The SAEV is a four-seater that promises over 500 miles of range. It’s the perfect solar-assisted electric vehicle for road trips or long drives.
Features & Benenfits
- Shorter charging time: You can recharge the car’s battery at any charging point in about half the time of most Evs.
- Lightweight: The Lightyear One features a lightweight aluminum chassis, which makes it lighter than most cars. This design maximizes efficiency while reducing drag.
- Charge on the go: The car’s rooftop is covered with solar panels that recharge the batteries while the vehicle is in motion.
- Aerodynamic: The car has small wheels and an aerodynamic design to minimize wind resistance.
Additionally, the car has an exquisite design, making it a head-turner wherever you go. The Lightyear One is worth considering if you’re after a SAEV that offers both efficiency and style.
5. BMW i8 Hybrid
The BMW i8 with embedded solar cells is a unique and innovative car. The i8 is notable for its creative use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and its embedded solar cells. The roof-mounted cells generate electricity stored in a battery pack and used to power the car.
Features & Benefits
- BMW i8 comes with thin-film photovoltaic cells laminated onto the car’s body.
- The cells connect to the car’s onboard computer, which monitors the charging process optimizing solar power usage.
- BMW covers its panels with special glass that protects them from the elements and keeps them clean.
- These cells also give a small amount of power to the car’s accessories, which can help keep the interior cool in the summer.
The i8 has 357 horsepower and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds. It also boasts a range of 310 miles and a top speed of 155 mph.
6. Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept
This is an electric car that you can drive on solar power and achieve a longer range. Instead of relying on electricity to power its battery, the Energi Concept captures the sun’s energy through a unique concentrator. Plus, it has a charging port, so you can plug it into your power grid if you like.
The solar concentrator mimics a magnifying glass. Its Fresnel lens directs sunlight to the cells increasing the sun’s impact 8 times. Fresnel can also trace the sun as it travels across the sky. This optimizes solar energy intake, providing enough power for a 4-hour battery charge (8 kWh).
On a full charge, the Energi Concept can cover 620 miles, much like the traditional C-MAX, plus another 25 electric-only miles.
Features & Benefits
- It has a satisfying 620-mile range
- It uses solar energy to charge its battery
- It has a port for home/station charging
- The C-MAX reduces CO2 emissions by using renewable and sustainable power sources
- It is an aesthetically pleasing vehicle that blends well with many homes.
- It has a concentrator that channels intense rays to the cells on the rooftop.
Overall, the C-MAX is a high-performance car with aerodynamic features that reduce drag and increase fuel economy.
The ability to tap into the sun’s energy means your car does not rely solely on electric grids. According to stats by Ford, solar power can energize up to 70 percent of the average distance covered by a solar hybrid car. Therefore, solar energy can be a lifesaver in marginalized areas/ or regions with high electricity costs.
7. Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid
The Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid is one of the most popular EVs on the market, and for a good reason– it’s affordable yet feature-rich. It also features a solar panel roof that provides a backup power source if the main battery runs out.
In just 2 hours, you achieve over 60% charge via the Mode III Mennekes connector, thanks to its 3.3 kW charging power. This time extends by an hour if you use your home plug socket.
Toyota Prius Prime runs on a Dual Motor Drive System which improves the driving power for optimal acceleration, better performance, and a fair top speed of 135 kmph. The technology also reduces the frequency of engine startup, preserving your charge.
Features & Benefits
- Flexible charging through its 800V and 400V ports
- It has heat-pump air-conditioning and battery-warming tech to survive any weather
- The car has a spacious interior with enough room for passengers and cargo
- Includes a Dual Motor Drive System for better performance and a top speed of 135 kmph
- Its solar cells offer 1000 km of range per year
- 65% increase in battery charging rate –just 2 hours using Type II Mode III Mennekes connector
- It has three driving modes and four powertrain modes to support a wide range of driving needs.
The Prius Prime is an ideal option if you’re looking for an electric car with all the bells and whistles. Plus, it is affordable ($28,770), spacious, and stylish.
8. Mercedes Vision EQXX
The Vision EQXX is an innovative concept from Mercedes Benz. It demonstrates the future of mobility, combining the compact dimensions of an EV with the sleekness of a sports car.
Vision EQXX’s solar roof is a highly efficient and eco-friendly way to power the vehicle. It has panels that capture the sun’s energy and transform it into electrical power.
The car’s primary electrical system supplies power to most sub-units but relies on extra energy from the roof-mounted solar panels. This cuts the high-volt system’s power needs, saving energy for more range. On a sunny day, it can power you for a further 25 kilometers.
Features & Benefits
- It covers a range of 610 miles on a full charge
- Lightweight body and wheel design
- The first-ever car with real-time 3D navigation
- Its battery has a 100 kWh capacity
- Aerodynamic design ensuring a drag coefficient of 0.17
- Wide 110-inch wheelbase
Mercedes has also increased the battery’s energy density to 200 Wh/kg instead of increasing its size. This enhancement allows the pack to store up to 100 kWh while occupying little room and weighing less than car batteries of similar capacity.
For the interior, Mercedes uses durable and sustainable materials to give Vision EQXX a sleek, futuristic, and cozy design.
9. Hyundai Ioniq 5
The Hyundai ioniq 5 is a hybrid electric car powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It also has a solar roof that helps to power the electric motor. In addition to its rich set of smart tech, the car offers incredible performance boasting an impressive range of 315 miles.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 is one of the few EVs that offer a sporty experience, accelerating from zero to 100km/h in just 5 seconds. And once you take off, you can reach top speeds of 185 kmph thanks to the car’s impressive driving dynamics.
The charging speed is another concern for EVs and Ioniq 5 takes on the challenge pretty well– its 800V battery system ensures super-fast charging.
Features & Benefits
- 0 to 100km/h in an impressive 5.1 seconds
- Top speed of 185 kmph
- Both driver and co-driver can adjust their preferred temperatures separately
- You can control car components via your smartphone through Hyundai’s Bluelink® Connected Car Services
- It has a dynamic regenerative brake system which helps extend the driving range.
- You can adjust the regenerative braking system using your paddle shifters to tune the motor and help charge the battery.
- Hyundai Ioniq 5 offers two charging options 800V and 400V, for convenience and flexibility.
- The 800V charging system takes in power at 220 kW achieving an 80% charge in under 20 mins.
Overall, this car offers plenty of benefits for an eco-minded driver looking for an advanced SAEV. It can also serve as a powerhouse while parked; its Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) tech charges devices/electronics up to 3.6 kW via its 230V plug.
10. Chevrolet Volt Plug-in Hybrid
Talk of energy-saving, eco-friendly cars, and the Chevrolet Volt is one of the best on the market. This hybrid vehicle can operate on either electricity or gas, and it gets excellent mileage no matter which fuel you use. Plus, with a solar panel on the roof, you can recharge the battery while driving!
The Volt has a range of up to 53 miles when operating solely on electric power. If you need to go further than that, the gas engine kicks in and gives you an additional 344 miles of range. You’ll never have to fret about being stranded without a charge.
The benefits of owning a Chevrolet Volt don’t stop there, read on to discover more.
Features & Benefits
- Recharging the battery takes about 13 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet. But if you have access to a 240-volt outlet, that time is cut in half.
- Runs on both gas and electricity
- It guarantees a long range because it relies on multiple power sources.
- This car is also affordable, starting at just over $33,000.
- It has all the features and creature comforts you’d expect from any high-end vehicle.
So if you’re after an electric car that’s both economical and eco-friendly, the Chevrolet Volt is worth considering. With its solar panel charging capability, it’s sure to keep you on the road for years to come!
The 5 Things to Consider in a Solar-Assisted Electric Vehicle
There are a few points to check when looking for a SAEV. Here are the five most important ones:
The battery capacity is an essential feature when looking for a SAEV.
Ensure the vehicle has a good battery capacity and can hold a charge for a long time. This is especially crucial if you plan to use the automobile for long trips.
Ask the seller about the battery capacity before you make your purchase. Remember, your solar power will only add a few miles to your battery’s range.
Photovoltaic Array Size and Efficiency
The photovoltaic array size and efficiency matter too. After all, you want an array that can generate enough power to keep your vehicle running.
The array should also be as efficient as possible so that you keep all the energy it generates.
Some arrays are better than others, so it’s essential to research and find one that will meet your needs.
Range Added by the Solar-Generated Power
Some cars have a small solar panel on the roof that doesn’t do much to help with range.
But others have a large solar panel extending the range by up to 50 miles per day. Ask the seller how much distance the solar-generated power adds to the car. That’s a crucial factor to consider when making your decision.
Motor & Drivetrain Efficiencies
You also want a car with high motor and drivetrain efficiencies. What does this mean?
Essentially, it means that the vehicle is using its power more efficiently. This is crucial because it means you can travel farther on a single charge.
You also want a vehicle that has a low overall weight since that will also help with efficiency.
Regenerative Braking System
Finally, you’ll want to ensure the vehicle has a robust regenerative braking system.
This system helps recapture energy that would usually be lost during braking and stores it in the vehicle’s battery. The generated energy can help power the car’s motor and extend the its range.
Is there a car that runs solely on solar panels?
No. SAEVs are the closest thing to a solar-powered car, but they still rely on batteries and gasoline or diesel fuel. SAEVs use solar panels to generate electricity to charge the vehicle’s batteries, power the car, and extend its range, making it more eco-friendly.
What are the benefits of solar-assisted electric vehicles?
There are several benefits to solar-assisted electric vehicles. First, they are more efficient than traditional gas or diesel cars. SAEVs can travel further on the same amount of fuel, thanks to the solar panels that help power the vehicle. Additionally, solar-assisted electric cars produce zero emissions, making them a much cleaner option for the environment.
What’s the difference between plug-in hybrid and hybrid?
A plug-in hybrid electric car/vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid car with rechargeable batteries that you can plug into an external power source to recharge battery. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) uses two or more distinct power types, e.g., an internal combustion engine and electric batteries.
If you’re in the market for a solar-assisted electric vehicle, there are a few things you’ll want to look for. Not all solar-assisted electric cars are created equal. The manufacturers have included different features and capabilities, so you can choose what matters to you.
For most car owners, it’s a range, while others want the extra perks of having a backup power source on their EVs.
With different car makers shifting focus to sustainable cars, brace up for more change, as these vehicles will only get better with time.