The idea of solar power used in cars is nothing new. In fact, some versions of the W211 Mercedes E-Class had optional photovoltaic cells that, in theory, kept the cabin cool under the sun by powering the vehicle’s air-conditioning system while the engine was off. However, it can be said that the feature was ineffective since the current E-Class model no longer has it.
On the other hand, the concept of the sun powering the car’s running gear itself is still quite novel. Sure, there have been pet projects such as De La Salle University’s Sinag and Sikat solar race cars. But the technology is currently not as mainstream as conventional battery-powered vehicles because photovoltaic cells are still quite inefficient in providing the energy needed by a production car to reliably work.
But that doesn’t stop automakers from experimenting with ideas on how to make use of sun power in automobiles. The present technical direction, it seems, is to utilize solar cells as some kind of alternative method to keep battery packs topped up. Mainstream brands like Toyota and Hyundai as well as startups like Lightyear are utilizing solar panels as range extenders for their products. And now, another car company has joined the sun-powered movement.
A US-based startup called Humble Motors has a very bold claim: to build an electric SUV (called the Humble One) that promises a more efficient solar charging system, and to lessen the reliance on the current network of EV chargers. The company says that up to 32km of range per day can be added thanks to highly efficient solar panels on the car’s roof and fold-out “wings.” But because the effectiveness of a sun-powered system depends on the amount of available sunlight, Humble’s EV apparently has provisions for conventional charging methods.
The exotic-looking One has all the usual specifications of a modern EV that is typically conceptualized by a startup company. It can seat four and has an estimated range of 804km, a power unit good for 1,020hp, and a drag coefficient of 0.25. It does have a rather steep sticker price, though. Buyers will have to fork out $109,000 (P5.3 million) for the base model. Production of the One is scheduled to begin in 2024.
While a solar-powered EV with over 1,000hp sounds cool, remember that Humble Motors is a startup. Everything it says should be taken with a grain of salt. But if the company’s claims prove to be actually legit, then it could be the start of a revolution that uses solar energy to make electric cars closer to being a truly sustainable means of transport.