We have petroleum-based high performing cars. We also have some impressive electric-powered cars. But, what about solar-powered cars? Is there any manufacturer interested to dive deeper on it?
While Tesla is busy working on new long-lasting batteries for cheaper costs and breaking track records, Toyota is trying to figure out a way to make solar-powered cars run for an exceptionally long time period (like, forever).
TOKYO — Inspired by new ultra-thin solar panels developed for satellites, a project led by Toyota is experimenting with a sun-powered Prius that it hopes will one day require no plugging in. In the Japanese government-funded demonstration project, Toyota engineers fitted solar panels designed by Sharp Corp to the hood, roof, rear window and spoiler to see how much juice the sun can generate. The electricity from the panels goes directly to the drive battery, so the Prius can charge while moving or when parked. On a good day, the charge can be sufficient for up to 35 miles of travel, more than the 29 miles driven a day by the average American, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. But the performance drops off quickly if it is cloudy or even when it's too hot out. If used in real-world driving in those conditions, the Prius would have to be plugged in to recharge. Toyota has experimented with solar panels on the Prius for years, but these new solar cells are super-slim — just 0.03 millimeters — making them malleable enough to form-fit to the body of a car. The engineers needed to create a buffer between the car and the cells to protect them, so the actual solar panel modules are closer to a centimeter thick. The trunk of the car is filled with batteries for the solar panels, adding extra weight of around 180 pounds. Making the entire package lighter and bringing down the extremely high costs are among the biggest challenges for the technology, said Satoshi Shizuka, Toyota's lead engineer on the project, adding that commercialization likely remained "years away".
The Alpine A110 mid-engine sports car is a wonderfully fun machine with gorgeous retro styling based on its rear-engine predecessor from the 1960s. And finally, like that old car, the new one is going rally racing. The French company revealed the above car for the FIA R-GT rally class. According to Alpine, the aluminum chassis is pretty much the same as what you'll find on the production car as well as the Cup and GT4 race cars previously shown. But it does feature special three-way hydraulic suspension to cope with the rough terrain of rally racing. The turbocharged 1.8-liter engine makes over 300 horsepower, much more than the standard A110's 248 horsepower and even the A110S's 288 horses. The engine is paired with a six-speed sequential transmission and a limited-slip differential. Upgraded Brembo brakes help it to stop, and a roll cage, racing seat and harness keep the driver safe. The whole car has been developed by Signatech, which is the company that handles Alpine's prototype race cars. Alpine is currently getting the car homologated for the FIA R-GT class, which plays host to rally cars based on production sports cars. The company plans to offer customer cars for about 150,000 euros, which is a little over $165,000 at current exchange rates. Though the R-GT class is small, it's beginning to grow. The two main cars competing are the Fiat 124 Abarth rally car, which looks and sounds superb, as well as 997-generation Porsche 911s. Several years ago, there was a Lotus Exige that competed. Porsche also recently announced it would start offering an R-GT version of the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
One of the advantages and features of Tesla’s cars is that they come with a huge infotainment display. If you’re looking to furnish your car with a similar system, then you might be interested to learn that Sony has recently debuted their new CarPlay infotainment unit that comes with a pretty big 8.95-inch display.
Granted, it’s probably still not as big as you might find in a Tesla, but it should still be big enough where you can show information like maps and view it clearly. This unit will support both CarPlay and Android Auto, depending on your personal preference. It is also designed to fit into a single-DIN space in your dashboard, meaning that it shouldn’t be an issue getting it to fit into most cars.