PlanetSolar around-the-world solar yachtEnlarge Photo
While solar has its place in the electric car world, it's not yet suitable for powering an electric car directly.
A Prius or Leaf may come with a small solar panel mounted in the roof, but that's just to power accessories. And if you want to run your car on solar electricity, your best bet is mounting a solar array on the roof of your home.
The MS Turanor PlanetSolar boat, just in from an epic round-the-world voyage, doesn't have those problems.
That's largely because it's a little bigger than your average car, at 115 feet long and 75 feet wide. That means it has a wide surface area to cover in solar cells--virtually the whole deck of the ship.
Top speed, according to Yahoo News, was around 15-20 knots, allowing it to complete the 37,286-mile journey in 584 days.
It could have been even quicker. Like any worthy pioneers though, the crew, led by captain Raphaël Domian, stopped regularly around the route to promote solar energy.
The stops could hardly be considered stressful, at least. That accolade was taken by the risk of run-ins with Yemen and Somali pirates, during a phase uncomfortably taken at only 5 knots thanks to low solar energy. The trip might have had a very different outcome if the crew had been unlucky.
There's an interesting parallel with electric cars on the trip, and that's the lack of noise, thanks to the lack of a traditional engine.
Domain explains, "It's very nice because you have no noise and no vibration. To see the wildlife and the dolphins, it's much better than on a normal motor boat".
The PlanetSolar may be the first solar boat to circumnavigate the globe, but it's sure to inspire others to try the same. And who knows, maybe technology improved by solar competition will find its way into our vehicles more directly...