Original name: 京セラSCV-0

Rising solar cars

The typical automobile spends far more of its life inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic than cruising down the highway. That may provide an opening for the Solar Commuter Vehicle —SCV-0—being developed by Japan's Kyocera Corp. The prototype shown in Japan is basically an electric car covered with solar cells that extend the car's range by recharging its batteries. Kyocera says it plans to have a commercial version of the SCV-0 on the market in as little as five years.

Designers and engineers say it will be a no-frills car for commuting, shopping, and running errands. The diminutive two-seat hatchback is only 130 inches long, 55 inches wide, and weighs just 1,200 pounds. More than 23 square feet of solar cells will charge a bank of sealed nickel-zinc batteries. A direct-current motor drives the rear wheels. Fully charged, Kyocera says, the SCV-0 has a top speed of 40 mph and a range of 70 miles. On a sunny day, extra current from the photovoltaic solar cells will recharge the batteries while on the go, stretching the range to about 100 miles. For driving at night or on overcast days, the SCV-0 can be charged by a household electric current.

Kyocera engineers admit they face challenges in transforming the $70,000 prototype into a $14,000 commercially viable car. The chances for SCV-O's success will depend on Kyocera's ability to optimize efficiency by shaving weight with the use of advanced body materials and lightweight batteries.

I watched as a Kyocera engineer put the SCV-0 through its paces in the cramped parking lot of the company's Tokyo office. The SCV-0 started, stopped, and drove like a conventional car, although without the noise and exhaust encountered in gasoline-powered vehicles. While it lacks high performance, it is no golf cart. If this solar vehicle never gets out of Kyocera's parking lot, it won't be for lack of talent or effort.

source: Popular Science