Driving Halfway Around the World in a Solar Power Car

Even though solar energy is becoming more popular than ever, many people around the world are still unaware of the revolutionary power of the sun. To raise awareness about the immense capabilities of solar power, an engineer recently outfitted his vehicle with solar panels and drove it from India to England using nothing but energy from the sun.

A solar-powered trek

In a journey that lasted seven months and covered more than 6,000 miles, Naveen Rabelli drove from India to Britain in a solar-powered tuk-tuk - a vehicle that is essentially an automotive rickshaw with three wheels. The expedition took him through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France before he crossed the English Channel from Calais, India Times reported.

"The highlights have been the way people have helped me out along the way and supported me,” Naveen told The Guardian. "People love the tuk-tuk, particularly in Iran and many other countries. They come forward and take selfies. And the moment I tell them it doesn't require petrol, their minds are blown."

Naveen outfitted the tuk-tuk with a bed, a seat for a co-passenger, a cupboard for food and a solar-powered cooker.

This journey halfway around the world resulted in zero carbon emissions produced by his solar power vehicle and highlights the revolutionary potential to power automobiles with nothing more than sunlight.

The spread of sun-fueled cars

Although the solar-powered tuk-tuk Naveen drove halfway around the world was a prototype he mostly designed and built himself, several auto manufacturers are jumping on the solar-powered bandwagon.

Hanergy Holding Group, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, recently released four different models of solar power cars. Constructed of lightweight material and covered in thin-film solar cells, a five to six-hour charge of sunlight will generate eight to 10 kilowatt-hours of energy for the cars. This translates to a conversion rate of 31.6 percent and a 50-mile range.

In addition, Sono Motors, a German startup, recently raised more than $200,000 in a crowdfunding effort to produce prototypes of an electric car powered by solar energy through integrated solar panels.

While Hanergy and Sono Motors are just two auto manufacturer leading the way in delivering solar power cars to the mass market,  university students from the around continue to tinker with new ways to combine this clean, renewable energy source with the traditional driving experience that's familiar to everyone. For instance, in Nigeria, an engineering student added solar panels and a wind turbine to a classic Volkswagen Beetle for just $6,000, using mostly scrap parts. Not only do the solar panels provide free energy to power the car during the day time, but the turbine also allows air to flow through the grill, which is then used to charge the vehicle's battery, overcoming some of the limitations of driving at night that a purely solar-powered automobile might face.

With so many people and companies around the world working diligently to perfect a car that runs on sunlight, it should only be a matter of time before solar power cars become the new reality.