How A Solar Car Works

The solar car was made shortly after the invention of the solar cell. A 1912 Baker electric car had 11,000 individual solar cells added to it and thus created the first solar powered vehicle. Solar cars have come a long way but are still only reserved for special races that have been held yearly since the late 1980s.

To create a basic solar powered car is very easy. All you need is a solar panel that puts out enough power to run a DC motor and it will run! This is enough for a toy to play with but to create one that can race across a continent you’ll need a few more components.

Solar Panel

The solar panel is the component that takes sunlight and converts it to usable electricity. The solar panel is made up of thousands of individual solar cells. The solar cells are wired together to create the voltage and current necessary for the car to operate. The cells are often covered in an epoxy like resin or semi-rigid plastic film.

Charge Controller

The charge controller takes the power from the solar panel and uses to charge the batteries. Since the battery can get over charge, it will stop sending power to the batteries once they are full so it won’t damage them. Sometimes charge controller are also used to monitor the power output from the batteries. This is to make sure that you don’t draw too much power out of the batteries as over draining them can also cause damage.


The batteries in the solar car store the extra energy for use at a later time. They also serve the purpose to smooth out the power from the sun. If a cloud was to go overhead of the solar car it would slow down since there is less sunlight hitting the car. Thanks to the batteries, the car can keep going at full speed until the sun comes back and can recharge the batteries once again.

Motor Controller

The motor controller is what connects the batteries/solar panel to the motor of the car. The driver of the car has a throttle like a gas powered car. Except instead of changing the amount of gas that goes to the engine, it changes the amount of electricity going to the motor.


The motor is what does the work to move the car. Generally they are brushless-DC motors which are a very efficient style electric motor. They look and perform similar to a motor that would be used at home in a desktop or ceiling fan. Some solar car designs incorporate the motor right into the wheel without the use of gears and this is called a direct drive motor. This is the type of motor used on this solar car.