WAV, the company behind the famous GEM Neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) recently announced that it was adding a solar panel option that will transform the roof of their EVs into an energy source.
When it comes to low-speed vehicles (LSV) in the United States, GEM’s trims are one of the most popular. The small vehicles are designed to run in urban areas and where it is unnecessary to drive full-size cars.
The addition of solar panels will expand the charging options that the driver has, instead of just relying on plugging them into a wall outlet. However, the monocrystalline solar panel module the company announced is an optional accessory.
“This Earth Month, we’re introducing a new solar panel option to power GEM electric vehicles with renewable energy,” said Joe Kenney, WAEV engineering director. “Sustainability has been at the core of GEM for more than 20 years and we’re dedicated to providing our customers—both individuals and businesses—with more sustainable ways to move.”
WAEV is yet to release detailed specs on the solar panel modules’ power rating. However, the company shared the benefit of installing solar panels. According to WAEV, depending on the GEM model, the solar accessory can add anything from 4.3 to 12.4 miles of range daily. It is safe to say that prediction also depends on the solar intensity.
Solar panels on NEVs perform better than on conventional cars
When solar panels are installed on conventional EVs, they rarely add significant range. This is mostly due to the larger size of the battery packs and higher power motors used on full-size EVs. With these, the energy generated by modestly-sized solar panels remains limited.
On the other hand, LSVs or NEVs from WAEV have smaller battery packs and motors that push the vehicles up to 25 mph. Therefore, the same amount of solar generation will translate to a longer driving range.
The combination of low speed and compact size makes NEVs ideal for navigating crowded streets and tight spaces. These types of vehicles create a safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians. Also, NEVs have lower maintenance and operating costs which offer drivers significant savings.
The number of NEVs in the U.S. is few but the segment is growing in significance in the transportation industry. Roof-mounted solar panels on NEVs can go a long way to quell range anxiety and lower the frequency of stopping to recharge. It is also an important tool for accelerating EV adoption.
Sales of EVs surged by 55% in 2022
Talking about EV adoption, the sale of EVs surpassed more than 10 million in 2022 with China accounting for about 50% of the total sales. This was disclosed on Wednesday, April 26 by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA Global EV Outlook for 2023 highlighted the sustained growth of the industry.
“Electric vehicle sales—including battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)—exceeded 10 million last year, up 55% relative to 2021,” said the IEA’s report. “This figure—10 million EV sales worldwide—exceeds the total number of cars sold across the entire European Union (9.5 million vehicles) and is nearly half of the total number of cars sold in China in 2022.”
According to IEA, the word ‘sales’ in the report meant “an estimate of the number of new vehicles hitting the roads.” In total, the report mentioned that over 26 million EVs were on the world’s roads in 2022, representing a 60% rise compared to 2021.
Paris-based IEA is perceived by many as an authoritative voice on the energy transition. The IEA estimates that the global sales of EVs could reach about 14 million in 2023.
“This explosive growth means electric vehicle’s share of the overall car market has risen from around 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022 and is set to increase further to 18% this year, based on the latest IEA projections,” said a statement accompanying the report.
China is at the forefront of EV adoption
According to the IEA, China is a frontrunner in EV sales. The IEA report mentioned that 50% of the EVs on the road are found in China. The agency also said the sale of EVs in the U.S. rose by 55% in 2022.
“In Europe, the second largest market, EV sales increased over 15% in 2022, meaning that more than one in every five cars sold was electric,” said the IEA report.
Faith Birol, the IEA’s executive director said, “Electric vehicles are one of the driving forces in the new global energy economy that is rapidly emerging—and they are bringing about a historic transformation of the car manufacturing industry worldwide. The trends we are witnessing have significant implications for global oil demand. Cars are just the first wave: electric buses and trucks will follow soon.”
The future and challenges of transitioning to EVs
In the last few years, a large number of automakers have outlined plans to ramp up EV production and scale back on ICEs. Some of these goals are backed by government policies. For example, the UK wants to put an end to the sale of new gasoline and diesel vans and cars by 2030 and phase them out by 2035.
The European Union is also aiming at curbing emissions from road transport. California, the most populous state in the U.S. has also set 2035 as the deadline for the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles. Although the transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles is exciting, it comes with challenges too.
Firstly, charging stations are not growing at the same pace as the sale of new electric vehicles. This has remained a major roadblock and the main cause of range anxiety. Also, the lower noise of EVs can be a serious challenge to road users with hearing and sight problems. Finally, the discussion about the safety and cost of EVs is likely not going to vanish anytime soon.