Solar On EV
Aptera - #1 "Solar Car"
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
A futuristic look, ultra-lightweight two-seater EV has with solar panel built-in, and full of history.
They started in 2006 before Tesla started selling Roadster in 2008, failed in 2011, and back from the dead in 2019 by the same founders.
A company that resurrects after eight years must be doing something significant.
The Best Solar Car in 2021
I think it is the best “Solar Car” by far.
Aptera – a very lightweight three-wheeler with solar panels all over its surface, claims to have 1000 miles range with solar at the price of US$25900 - $46000. It seats two (yes, only two + a dog) and has a futuristic aerodynamic design.
They started designing and making energy-efficient vehicles; it wasn’t the time for such a thing 15 years ago.
EVs' popularity changed the world’s demand for energy-efficient vehicles; they make a come back with more, the “Solar Car” or Solar Assisted EV in 2019.
It feeds on solar, the price is reasonable, and the most efficient vehicle in its class. Most importantly, “Solar Car” is futuristic; it fits perfectly.
A Practical Electric Car
For practically, I don’t know. I might buy it as a 2nd fun car, like my jet-ski, my road bike, just not something I would use every day. I must be too rich to buy a 2nd fun car for $25900 (just the base model) because it is a futuristic “Solar Car”.
I think a typical EV would fit better.
It is perfect as a “Solar Assisted EV” concept car, not as a car, though. It is possible to put solar on many typical EVs to add in some mileage.
Since I’m not rich, I’ll try to dig in more to see if it is worth the penny.
What Makes The Best Solar Car
Let’s see if Aptera compares to a typical EV with a similar solar system installed (just theoretically). This time, we’ll use the world’s second best-selling EV. Take a guess, Tesla Model Y? Nissan Leaf? MG ZS? VW ID3?
It is Wuling Hongguang Mini EV. The China #1 selling EV outsold Tesla Model 3, and the world’s #2. A mini car that people go around mainly short distance in the city.
It costs between US$4000 - $6000 and weighs only 665Kg. You can get at least 7 Wuling Mini EV for the price you pay for the cheapest Tesla Model 3 or 5 of Aptera base model.
We compare the top model of Wuling with a 13.8kWh battery, 170km range, and seat four, with the base model Aptera with 25kWh battery, 250km range, and seat two adults (and a dog). In fact, there is only one model of Aptera with the difference of battery size only (25/50/75/100kWh).
Aptera comes standard with 700W solar panels over its optimized surface, while Wuling has none and a less flat surface. We calculate figures for both with “No solar”, 500W, 600W, and 700W solar on an average daily driving mileage of 25 and 35km. Solar mileage gain is calculated with an average of 5 hrs daily sunlight over the year, which shows results as the table below:
Electric Vehicle Efficiency and the TCO
As you can see, Aptera beats Wuling when “No Solar” because it has a bigger battery and more extended driving range at its bare system. Interestingly, Wuling exceeds Aptera almost whenever solar is installed because Wuling has a more efficient system that burns less energy. I’m sure that Aptera would beat Wuling if we picked a bigger battery variant, 50kWh or larger. But it would be the bigger battery pack that outperformed Wuling, not because of solar.
The most critical criterion of a “Solar Car” is “Efficiency”, both from the vehicles and solar panels. Wuling becomes “Off-Grid” with 600W solar panels while Aptera starts at 700W (see Red highlight on the above table). The only problem is, we're not sure if Wuling has enough surface area to fit the solar panel.
To be fair, I don’t think anyone could beat Wuling based on price and efficiency. In the “Solar Car” category, Aptera is still the best for now. It is particularly for long-haul travels, no more “Range Anxiety” with the solar and a bigger battery pack.
Do you think Wuling would make “Solar Car”? A mini-city EV, with performance 0-60km/h at 9.22s and 0-100km/h over 30s (Tesla Model 3 SR+, 0-100km/h in 5.3s, Model 3 Performance is 3.3s). I think you'll never get a speeding ticket.
Does anyone include speeding tickets into the EV's total cost of ownership?