Solar Energy Just Powered a Race Across the Country

It may not have gotten a lot of media attention, but a recent eight-day race across the country may be laying the groundwork for vehicles of the future. The American Solar Challenge pits universities against each other in a challenge to make the fastest and most efficient vehicle powered only by the sun.

The course weaved from Austin, Texas to Minneapolis, Minnesota, crossing towns big and small in the dash across America. The winning team from the University of Michigan traveled the 1,722.55 mile course in 41:27:29 for an average speed of 41.5 miles per hour. That's impressive when you consider that the car was powered only by the sun, and it shows just how much potential there is for solar energy on cars in the future.

Not only are SunPower's cells more efficient than competitors, the construction allows for an all-black design that improves aesthetics when applied to a car. Source: SunPower.

Who will benefit from solar cars

To see who would benefit most from cars going solar, all you have to do is look at the 23 cars that entered the American Solar Challenge. 22 of them were running on SunPower's high-efficiency solar cells, including every team that finished the race. These are the same cells Ford is using in the C-Max Energi.

SunPower is a natural choice because its cells are 50% more efficient than a standard cell, and the back contact technology they use make cells less fragile, slightly flexible, and more durable long term.

The other beneficiaries will be automakers themselves, who can add solar cells to EVs for very little additional cost and provide a great value proposition for buyers in the process.

Foolish bottom line

As solar-powered cars raced across the country last week, we may have seen a glimpse of what the future of the auto industry looks like. Solar energy and electric vehicles fit together naturally, and even though it may be a while before we can power 100% of our travel with on-board solar, I think it may be a growing piece of the energy used for transportation. Don't be surprised to see these two industries work together more in the future, helping to redefine what we think an automobile can be.

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The article Solar Energy Just Powered a Race Across the Country originally appeared on

Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of SunPower and is personally long shares and options of SunPower. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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