Solar EV Industry Primer

Solar-powered cars have now become a reality. Several automobile companies are currently working on solar-powered cars, and this should most certainly change the auto industry. The auto industry is looking to have its cars convert energy from sunlight into electricity. It does this through the help of solar panels to charge batteries. The photons from the sunlight hit photovoltaic cells, activating the electrons which then create an electric current. Most companies are simply just in the prototype phase. Likely we won’t see this technology being used for another decade.


Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla are all reported to be working on solar-powered vehicles. Also, you have various small startups such as Light Year, Squad Mobility, and Sono Motors. Some companies in the space are approaching things from an entirely different angle. Netherlands-based Squad Mobility released the Squad solar-charging car, and it runs entirely on solar panels. You may think, what is the point? Well, their focus is on urban mobility, and the car is quite small, holding only 2 people.  The car is compact, looking similar to an even smaller version of a SMART car, and it’s primarily designed for those living in European-style cities. A tight-knit design to make it easier to park similar to a Vespa. The car is designed to be driven no more than 1 hour per day for 300 days a year in an urban setting. If the extra range is needed, it can be charged directly from the grid, or portable batteries that come with the car. Another Dutch startup that exists is called Light Year which unveiled a prototype and they are claiming that they have the first car that can drive long distances with just solar power. Their car is called the Light Year One. It is capable of driving 450 miles.


Hyundai has embarked on the new solar industry with its new version of a hybrid car, called the Sonata. Roughly 30-60 percent of the battery can be recharged by solar panels. A major issue is that Hyundais’s car needs to be parked in the sun all the time to just get 2 miles’ worth of power per day.


Toyota created a partnership with Sharp Corp, and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan to develop a Prius that can run forever without fuel or electrical charging. While its downside is that it can’t drive for long distances, it at least avoids charging stations. The car will be able to do this becausethe solar cells being used are so small in thickness that more solar panels can be placed on the surface, including the curvy areas of the vehicle. Its conversion of sunlight (34%) far exceeds the market standard of 20%. 


Elon Musk notified the world about his Tesla Cybertruck, which would be the company’s first car to offer solar panels as an option. The solar panels can add 15 miles per day to the range. Musk has even gone on to say that he wanted to add solar wings which would even more to the range. Tesla initially rebuked solar, but has changed its tune recently, and will make solar a very high primary task on their to-do list.


There are roughly 1.2 billion cars on the road globally. It is expected that this number can grow to 2 billion in 20 years. Only a minimal fraction is comprised of Electric Vehicles. Desmond Wheatley, CEO of Envision Solar (EVSI), expects this number to escalate rapidly, considering the cost of car batteries will continue to drop. The battery is the most expensive part of the vehicle, but the price of these devices has already fallen from 2, 500 kilowatt-hours to $400. It’s on its way to $100. However, there are future problems that lie ahead. Let’s say millions of Ev’s enter the roadways. Wheatley predicts that in this scenario there would need to be hundreds of millions of EV charging stations would be needed. 


Currently, in California, there is an 8:1 correlation between EVs to charging stations. If this is going to be a societal shift, it needs to be 1:1. Grid-tied EV charging requires too much time and money. The grid currently struggles with the current load, so it would be very difficult to see how it will hold up when the roads are flooded with millions of EVs. Wheatley claims to have a solution and says it requires no infrastructure. Each charging station is a parking spot, and a tractor drops off the completed charging port while the solar arrays are on top and the electronic equipment is below. The car pulls onto a platform, which then is charged by a network. This network would be created by a sponsor. This means the consumers would pay next to nothing to fill up.Needless to say, European markets intend to go all-electric in the next 20 years. This will eventually push people into the market. New York City is Envision’s largest customer with 2000 vehicles that are electric. The city has 36,000 vehicles and the company intends to make them all electric.


According to Markets and Markets, the solar vehicle market is projected to grow on a compounding basis of 36.4%. It is expected that the European region will have the largest market share, with the Asia Pacific region being the largest in 2030. This makes sense as this region contains China and India, which are some of the fastest-developing economies in the world. It is also the largest market for automotive purchases. Consumers are noticing a growing percentage of their purchasing power which is causing this demand. The global solar vehicle market is expected to reach $689.5 million by 2027 assuming an 18.1% CAGR in this timeframe, according to Fortune Business Insights.


Now the world listens when Elon Musk speaks. He believes that electric consumption will double if the world’s car fleets are electrified. That means there is a massive need for expansion in geothermal, solar, nuclear, and wind energy-generating sources. Musk goes on to say that the transition from combustion engines to EVs will take 20 years. He says it won’t all be replaced in one swift transition. Combustion cars will slowly weave themselves out with 5% being replaced every year. He used the analogy with phones as an example.


Our society has come so far and is continuing to go to even greater lengths in regard to technology, automobiles, and the enhancement of the environment! We feel that the market will increase significantly over the next decade in regard to all three vehicle segments we mentioned. Electric vehicles would need to gain traction before solar electric and solar vehicles. To our understanding, electric vehicles already gained significant traction compared to 10 or even 5 years ago. As we mentioned earlier, even solar companies have started to become known in European cities as it fits their niche perfectly. Solar cars can very well be the future car for citizens of major international cities abroad, and possibly the US. We feel that the entire EV space will be an excellent market for years to come as its real effects on the world are not even set to hit for at least another decade or two! We will be actively searching for various companies in this space that will be game changers for the world’s future. In recent months, we have already witnessed some EV stock prices go up dramatically, but we feel this was due to pure speculation, and running off the coattails of TESLA. EVs were a hot space these past few months. We will be searching for the right companies. Going forward, we expect to make an effort on diving into this industry.