We like to think that we have it all figured out in the West, but while we’re still trying to get solar electric cars off the drawing board, China’s EV engineers already have them driving around. Look no further than this awesome little three-wheeled electric truck that just happens to have enough solar panels to give it nearly infinite range — at least while the sun is out.
It’s a perfect addition to the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column, which chronicles some of the most fun and quirky electric vehicles we can find on China’s biggest shopping platform.
The solar truck takes on a typical three-wheeled rickshaw design like we’ve seen before, but with an added twist.
The cargo box in back isn’t just useful for hauling goods to market or running your own moving company — it’s also shrouded in solar panels.
There are three large panels on each side of the truck, another three on the roof, plus a pair on the back.
They even open up to face the sky, giving the truck an odd resemblance to a bird sunning its wings.
The company hasn’t been very responsive to my inquiries and so unfortunately I’m going in a bit blind here with specs, but it looks like each of these large panels should be somewhere in the ballpark of 250 watts. That would mean the truck has a total of 2,750W of panels facing skywards.
Even in imperfect conditions, 2,000 watts of solar powered charging could be well within reason. The truck sports a rather small 1,000 watt motor, though the peak power of those mini-car motors is usually around twice the continuous power rating. Assuming it pulls closer to 2,000 watts under normal driving conditions, that means the little electric truck could theoretically draw all of its necessary power from the sun. When parked and not using its motor for driving, the truck would quickly charge its battery bank.
The sparse spec sheet on the vendor’s sale page lists the battery as 48V 30Ah, which seems ridiculously small. We’ve ridden electric bikes with more battery capacity than that!
But the truck could theoretically be powered by a pair of AA batteries as long as the sun is out, since the solar panels would make more power than the motor needs most of the time.
The vendor lists the range as 100 km (62 miles), though the slow top speed of 30 km/h (18 mph) means it would take you over three hours to actually go that far. But with enough sun on a clear day you might end up with full batteries when you reach your destination, again illustrating the range-extending properties of this little e-truck.
Now I’m not saying this is the most technologically advanced solar-powered electric vehicle in existence. You could put your name down on the reservation list for an expensive Aptera if you’d prefer a fancier solar-powered three-wheeler.
But the difference is that one of these is a fully-functional EV that you can buy today, and the other is a multi-million dollar prototype that may just see production one day, if we’re lucky.
Me? I think I’d rather plop down $2,000 for a solar-powered Chinese mini-truck. Both this and the Aptera will turn heads, but at least with this one I can still run an Uber side gig if I install a few tie down straps in the back.