A group of Chinese companies has collaborated to develop and manufacture what is the country’s first solar-electric vehicle (SEV).
The Tianjin solar car turned heads when it was unveiled during the sixth annual World Intelligence Conference on the Chinese mainland.
The prototype was built in only five months and is the product of a substantial venture made up of 42 organisations and three universities.
The concept of vehicles powered solely by the sun has been explored extensively since one of the first working models was displayed at the Chicago Powerama Convention in front of roughly two million attendees back in 1955.
The working example, created by General Motors designer William G. Cobb, was minute, measuring only 15 inches long. The tiny solar car was powered by 12 equally small selenium photovoltaic motors and an electric motor.
Dobb’s design was called the Sunmobile and while the scaled-down SEV was not about to get people anywhere, it showcased the power of photovoltaics in transportation.
The Tianjin solar car, meanwhile, is a little bit larger than the Sunmobile – measuring four metres long, 1.8 metres in height and weighing approximately 1 020 kilograms – enough to carry four passengers, according to the designers.
Occupants will notice that the front cockpit is conspicuously devoid of a steering wheel. In its place, a massive touch screen display greets passengers with a series of buttons below.
The omission of the steering wheel is not the result of some catastrophic design oversight; rather the Tianjin solar car features level 4 self-driving capabilities.
Self-driving cars with level 4 autonomy are restricted to areas that have been geo-fenced making them best suited to urban ride-sharing.
Tianjin has a respectable top speed of roughly 79.2 kilometres per hour and gets there by way of a massive 8.1 square metre solar module that will put out 7.6 kilowatts on a sunny day.
For some perspective, Dutch SEV start-up, Light Year sports a 5 square metre solar array. When it isn’t bright outside, Tianjin can rely on a battery capable of harvesting 330 watt-hours per kilogram.
Specs provided to the media say the futuristic car will reduce carbon emissions by 55 kilograms for every 100 kilometres the vehicle drives.
Operators of the Tianjin solar car will have to recharge the battery pack quite frequently. According to the EV blog, Electrek, the range is limited to only 74.8 kilometres, while the Tesla model 3 will travel between 270 kilometres and 360 kilometres on a charge, depending on the battery pack.