Solar powered cars have been limited to lightweight, impractical, demonstration vehicles due to the low power attainable from solar power mounted on the vehicle. This proposal is intended to achieve high enough power to make a safe, practical solar powered electric car.
The solar panel is a deployable solar sail, as on satellites. It folds up when the car is traveling, but when parked the solar sail is deployed upwards to achieve a large surface area, much larger than the roof of the vehicle. Deploying the solar panel also provides a more favorable angle to the sunlight. The sail is extended primarily in an upward direction to avoid interference with surrounding vehicles and structures, and to allow it to be deployed in public parking lots.
The individual panel segments are hinged to allow wind to blow through the solar sail rather than exerting a large force on it. This is an important novel feature to prevent wind damage to the vehicle.
The deploying mechanism is motorized and operated by a single button push to deploy or stow the solar sail. Many types of linkages could be used. The depicted linkage is a scissor-lift linkage.
Embodiment 1 has solar panels only facing one direction. The vehicle must be parked with that side facing south.
Embodiment 2 has a rotatable solar array so it can face the sun independently of how the car is parked. However, this adds cost, weight and may restrict how wide the solar panel can be.
This is a practical, safe, zero fuel, zero emissions vehicle provided that the following conditions are met:
The operator lives in an area with plenty of sunlight
The operator drives a short distance each day (commuter car)
The parking locations allow parking with the solar panel in direct sunlight.