Student solar cars exhibition in Sisak, Croatia, June 2016Sunceco Croatia team visited this year’s 2nd exhibition of electric and hybrid cars and 4th solar cars race, held on 10/11 June in Sisak, Croatia. This event was initiated in 2012 by several technical high schools with a budget of USD 200.000. Its purpose was to encourage the use of electric vehicles powered by solar energy and to promote solar energy in general. It also contributed to creating new curriculum for students in the area of renewable energy sources.

Rimac Concept One in Smiljani, Croatia, birthplace of Nikola Tesla, June 2016

It is generally said of Croats that they are great innovators. When Nikola Tesla, at the turn of the 20th century patented his inventions related to electricity production, perhaps he had imagined electrically powered super-fast racing cars parked in front of his house. A century later, a vehicle like this, called  Concept One stopped in Smiljani, Croatia, the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. Its’ top speed reaches 355 km/hour taking 2.6 seconds to reach 100 km/h, which is just a bit slower than its powerful brother the Concept S.  Croatia’s Rimac Automobili specializing in ultra-high performance cars today represents the crème de la crème of the electric hyper-car segment, in terms of design and cutting-edge technology.

The number of electric cars worldwide is increasing. As of April 2016, the United States has the largest fleet of plug-in electric vehicles in the world, with about 450,000 highway-capable plug-in electric cars sold since the market launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008. The Nissan Leaf electric car and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid  were the first two series production plug-in electric vehicles introduced by major automakers in the U.S. As of January 2016, there are 26 highway-capable plug-in cars available in the American market for retail sales

Generally, statistics take into consideration three main types of electric vehicles:

  1. Hybrid Vehicles whose battery is automatically charged while driving; they don’t need access to electric grid. Kinetic energy generated when driving and braking is converted into electric energy and stored in the battery, which is later used as drive power source. The vehicle itself selects the most efficient mode of gasoline engine and electric motor and battery, and when necessary, switches between the two systems;
  2. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles function in the same way as hybrid vehicles but with the benefit of being powered by additional electric energy;
  3. Plug-in Electric Vehicles that have to be plugged-in to electric grid and absorb the energy for storage into batteries;

There are also solar electric vehicles, such as Fords’ C-MAX Solar Energi Concept,  that are completely or significantly powered by direct solar energy; their PV cells integrated into car roofs convert sunlight into electricity to drive electric motors. However, this market segment is still in development phase and not yet commercially widespread.

Electric vehicles are increasingly interesting because of their role in reducing greenhouse gasses. However, it has to be noted that importance of electrically powered vehicles is bigger if they use clean energy i.e. if they function within societies which are to a greater extent oriented on electricity gained from solar power, wind power, hydro power, biofuels etc.  Besides being powered by electricity, these vehicles are becoming also electricity generators creating unified home and drive sustainability system. Therefore, we can expect their growing role in creating a sustainable and energy efficient environment.