As the leader of off-grid mobility, we take pride in harvesting our fuel from the sun. Solar electric vehicles are still a brand-new concept– one that many still believe exists only in the pages of science fiction. However, it wasn’t until one of the youngest members of our movement, 8-year-old Elliott, asked the rather obvious but poignant question: “why aren’t all cars solar powered?”
Good question, Elliott. Well, many of you might be familiar with Aptera’s efficiency and low drag, resulting in the ability for our special solar IP to retain more energy than if one were to adhere standard hard cells on the roof of their car. But, this question got us thinking, why don’t we take a deep dive into the history of solar power and explore why exactly solar mobility is such an exciting challenge?
The history of solar power
For those of us who do not come from engineering backgrounds, solar panels most likely made their way into our consciousness in the late 70s when President Carter had panels installed onto the roof of the White House. Since then, roof panels have become nearly ubiquitous.
Moving the clock back a few thousands of years, however, the first uses of the sun’s energy to cook, process materials, and provide heat, most likely co-emerged with humankind. The sun has always been a part of our collective experience, and we’re fueling Aptera with the same energy source that sustained the very first civilizations.
Within the distant past, the first solar panels—as we know them– appeared in the late 19th century. These first iterations were made with selenium, a photoconductive trace mineral. However, it was not until 1954 that the modern solar panels were born. Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson, were the first to create the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells of modernity at Bell Labs. Most solar panels today are also PV– however, technology has improved cell efficiency since the 50s, as the original panels functioned at four percent efficiency.
This backward glimpse–albeit brief– illuminates two key takeaways. First and foremost, it is evident that harnessing heat and power from the sun has been a goal of humanity since the beginning of time. Secondly, however, this path to innovation has been one of centuries with incremental advancements.
The future is now
At Aptera, we find inspiration in both of these notions. Primarily, we are energized to disrupt the status quo– to add a line on the proverbial timeline of the history of solar energy. We know that solar advancements have been steady–but slow–likely because it takes incredible minds, and even more, unprecedented collaboration to make a breakthrough.
Perhaps the complex nature of these challenges has led to the belief that powerful solar vehicles are impossible.
Seeing the word “impossible,” as an invitation, we hope to inspire the next generation of minds to build upon our work. At the end of the day, our greatest accomplishment will be to leave a world full of solar vehicles– making this planet a healthier place for Elliott and his generation.