Solar power isn’t a particularly new technology. Travel around any street in Britain and you are bound to come across houses and other buildings that have PV (photovoltaic) panels on their roofs. These solar panels are designed to use the sun’s energy and convert it into something useable within the home, namely electricity (although they can also be used to heat water in hot water storage tanks).

You are probably wondering what this has got to do with cars? Well, plenty, as it turns out! Back in January, American car manufacturer Ford had announced plans to build a prototype car which is going to be a solar-powered hybrid!

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Photo Credit: ell brown (via Flickr).

According to the news article on the BBC News website, the Ford C-Max “Solar Energi” concept car has a number of solar panels mounted on its roof that can draw enough power equal to a four-hour battery charge – enough to propel the car up to 21 miles on solar power alone!

Obviously solar power technology has a long way to go in order to offer the sorts of ranges that we currently enjoy from petrol and diesel internal combustion engines, but it’s certainly an interesting step in the right direction.

The car manufacturer clearly believes that the industry in general should be investing more into solar power research for cars, but can this really be something that could revolutionise the car industry in the future? I think so, and here’s why:

PV cell technology is coming down in price

The thing about new technology is that it costs an absolute fortune to develop at first, but eventually prices will start to come down to reasonable levels. Take solid state drives in computers, for example.

When they were first introduced, they used to cost more than £1 per gigabyte, so a 120 gigabyte SSD would have cost you at least £120; not a very attractive proposition when you consider that 500 gigabyte hard drives cost around a third of the price! Today, it is possible to buy a 120 gigabyte SSD for around £54 – less than half the price of what it used to be.

This is because there is more of a take-up in the technology, and as such the market conditions have dictated that prices needed to be dropped in order for sales to grow, and this meant that SSD manufacturers had to drop wholesale costs.

We will run out of oil someday

Petrol and diesel fuels are obtained from oil, which in turn is created from fossils. The oil industry knows this, and this is why the price of oil has gone up by quite a lot in recent years. Demand for fossil fuels has also grown over years, so it’s only a matter of time before supplies are scarce or non-existent!

Car manufacturers are starting to wise up to this fact, according to GK Group, and this is why they are starting to consider alternatives such as hybrid engines, electric motors and, as in this case, solar power.