Due to the very specific processes by which the universe works, it isn't really possible to power a modern electric car via on-board solar panels.

Current photovoltaic cells simply don't produce enough power over a specific area to supply the needs of a power-hungry electric road car. It's why World Solar Challenge vehicles are like giant solar tables with a mere bubble for the driver.

A new small electric car prototype called P-MOB is aiming to change that though--and can run for up to 12 miles using nothing more than solar power generated by its on-board panels.

According to TheGreenCarWebsite, it's a collaborative project supported by Siemens Germany, Mazel, IFEVS, Polimodel, Fiat, and the University of Sheffield in the UK. $3.7 million in European Union funding has been injected into the project, with the aim of producing an efficient, safe and compact electric vehicle.

In testing at Fiat's test track in Turin, Italy, it's certainly succeeding on the efficiency front, proving its ability to run for 12 miles entirely using solar power.

It uses two electric motors for all-wheel drive, and touts a top speed of 62 mph. That sounds slow by modern electric car standards, but consider the P-MOB's intended usage and it doesn't look so bad. The idea here is to run very short journeys, often in cities, on as little energy as possible. You'd be lucky to break 10 mph in many European inner-city commutes, nor drive further than ten miles--so 62 mph and a 12-mile electric range makes more sense than it sounds.

Nor would it be limited to just 12 miles. While mono-crystalline silicon solar cells help attain that 12-mile solar range, the model is also fitted with a battery pack. This can be charged from a mains electricity supply just like any other EV.

Potentially, parking the P-MOB outside your house on a sunny day could even reduce your electricity bills, since excess energy generated by the car could be sold back to the grid.

The latter breaks no new ground, but is increasingly seen as an important factor in the future of electric vehicles. If you speak Italian, or simply want to see the car in action, check out the video below:

A 12-mile solar electric car--and one of such compact dimensions--isn't likely to be a reality in the U.S. for a long time, but fret not. You can still get all the benefits of solar power with few of the drawbacks by charging your electric car with home-mounted solar panels...


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