The promise of fleets of clean, green transport powered by solar energy has for decades just been that: a promise. But a new wave of vehicles is pushing the limits of what’s possible.
The Solar Impulse plane has just successfully crossed the US in five stages – from San Francisco to New York. And the world’s largest solar-powered boat, the Turanor Planet Solar, not only circumnavigated the globe in 2012, it also made the fastest solar-powered crossing of the Atlantic in May this year. The Atlantic trip was completed in 22 days, shattering its own previous record by four days.
There are more record-breaking feats in the pipeline. For instance, the team behind Solar Impulse aims to build a craft that will circumnavigate the world in 2015 – and to do so will require the development of new materials and construction methods, says the team, such as electrolytes that increase the energy density of batteries. Not to mention competitions like the World Solar Challenge, which takes place in October, where competitors have to complete a 3,000 km (1,860 miles) race from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia.
But for now, here’s a selection of the fastest, highest and furthest vehicles have gone, and possibly can go, when powered only by the Sun.