Not only has there been an increase in the total number of solar cars sold, but manufacturers have also stepped up their game to take over that market share in a highly competitive marketplace. From 2015-2018, the total number of solar plug-in cars increased from approximately 115,000 to over 361,000 in the U.S. alone. With this trend likely to keep growing, there’s plenty that manufacturers can do in order to remain competitive, fairly price their vehicles, and take hold of a segmented market.
Improving the battery quality for solar-powered cars is one of the premier ways manufacturers can differentiate themselves in this highly competitive marketplace. With dozens of manufacturers in the race to overtake a saturated market, greater battery capacity is the first way companies can appease their buyers. Manufacturers use lithium-ion batteries, which are still considered the best option for solar-powered cars because they’re the most affordable. Other options include:
- Lead-acid batteries
- Deep cycle
- OGi, and others
Continued research, development, and new technologies will further help separate the playing field, especially with luxurious car manufacturers like Tesla, Audi, and BMW jumping into the solar-panel race.
The Solar Roof
A recently released Hyundai ad that played during the 2020 Superbowl highlighted the Sonata’s 700 miles of “free-riding” per year. How’s this possible? The solar-paneled roof. Although Hyundai isn’t the first manufacturer to implement roof solar panels, it’s a pioneer in the technology that allows solar cells to charge the battery pack, infotainment center, and other accessories simultaneously. An uptake in solar-paneled roofs is likely given the popularity of the ad, the vehicle, and the fact that solar battery manufacturers are implementing new technologies to reduce the weight and cost of solar panels.
Solar Power Replenishing
Toyota is one of the leading manufacturers stepping up to compete with Tesla, the giant in solar-powered vehicle manufacturing in recent years. The company is developing new solar panels for their vehicles. The primary goal is to improve the rate of solar batteries replenish, reduce the necessity to recharge, and allow owners to get more on-road hours without having to stop at charging stations as frequently as they do now. Additionally, Toyota’s new solar battery film cells can cover a larger part of their vehicles, meaning they’re generating more power and utilizing sunlight, rather than draining the battery power backup.
Improvements in Battery Charging
Apart from the high price of solar panels and batteries for these vehicles, solar-powered car owners must recharge their cars nightly. The leader in this field, Tesla, has recently updated their firmware to integrate the Powerwall and vehicle charging to improve at-home charging. Although the Powerwall is specific to Tesla, the implementation of new technological advances to improve charging capabilities isn’t a novel concept. Manufacturers are going to continue improving the way in which batteries are maintained, solar panels are preserved, and reduce the frequency owners have to recharge.
AI Meet Faster Battery Charging
To further highlight what Tesla has done with its Powerwall, continued research by Toyota and a team at Stanford University, are implementing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help improve the charging speed of solar-powered cars. The utilization of new machine learning methods helps increase the rate of batteries recharge and improve the processes in solar-powered cars.
The Tech, Glitz, and Gadgets
There’s no way around it. Buyers want luxury, cool technologies, and fun gadgets. This goes for the car buying experience as well. Another way manufacturers in the solar-powered market are looking to differentiate themselves are with technological advancements. These include:
- Infotainment centers
- Safety stop features
- Hands-free driving and voice commands
- Heated seating and steering wheel
- Bird’s eye view/parking assist, and more
Of course, every manufacturer has implemented their own set of features and luxuries to help offset the competitive market. It’s likely that continued improvements, interior features, and design improvements will continue in the field of solar power cars as well.
With a visible increase in the total number of solar cars sold in the U.S., and around the world in recent years, there are plenty of trends manufacturers will continue to follow in order to differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace. Apart from decreasing the price of solar cars, which has taken place over the past couple of years, these are some trends and improvements we’ll continue to see through 2020 and into the future in the world of solar vehicles.