A Chinese EV powered solely by solar panels?

Can an electric vehicle (EV) be powered solely by solar energy in the form of carried-on solar panels? The results of a Chinese team of 42 companies and three universities joining forces may show that it’s possible.

A team from Tianjin has developed an EV – called the ‘Tianjin’– that is powered entirely by solar energy and claims to use no fossil fuels or external power sources, making it genuinely emission-free, according to a July 5 report in the local Chinese newspaper Jinyun News.

8,1 square meters of solar panels

The vehicle is a compact car. It measures 4 080 mm by 1 770 mm, and 1811 mm in length, width, and height. With a wheelbase of 2 850 mm, it is clear that all four wheels are really in the corners of the car. The weight is an astonishingly low 1 020 kilograms.

The EV has a solar module area of 8,1 square meters and generates a maximum of 7,6 kWh of electricity per day, providing the sun is shining, of course. It is powered by a battery pack with a (high) energy density of 330 Wh/kg, but the total capacity is unknown. According to its builders, it has a tested range of 74,8 km.

The Tianjin has a top speed of 79,2 kph, and its creators indicate proudly that every 100 kilometers traveled means a reduction of 25 kilograms of CO2 emissions. Moreover, according to the report, the EV has an autonomous driving capability up to level 4 and can drive automatically according to a route set by the system.

No steering wheel

A video on YouTube shows the car without a steering wheel, with just a display on the dashboard and a handful of buttons, including a red one that looks like an emergency stop. According to the report, it is China’s first purely solar-powered car, developed by a team from 42 companies and three universities over a five-month period.

The creators indicate proudly that the car has 47 advanced technologies, some of which are at the top of the industry, with core components supplied by companies from Tianjin. It is being produced by Tianjin-based IAT Automobile Technology company, which said it would continue to push forward with research to improve solar cell conversion rates.

The model is currently on display in Tianjin and will be shown in more cities afterward, according to Jinyun News. It’s worth noting that the model is not the first to use solar panels on a vehicle, although it’s the first to rely 100% on them for obtaining the electric power to drive.

In the Netherlands, there’s the Lightyear, but at €250 000, it sits entirely in another league and has a larger battery to be charged over time when the solar panels don’t deliver enough power. There’s no hint whatsoever at what the Tianjin would cost if it were produced.

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