A solar car is a vehicle used for land transport that is powered 100% by solar energy. Solar cars combine technology typically used in the aerospace, bicycle, alternative energy and automotive industries.
The key design parameter of a solar vehicle is the amount of energy that can be generated by an array of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells that are mounted onto, or built into, the surface of the car. Since there is limited area on a vehicle, solar arrays are packaged and mounted very differently from stationary solar arrays and involve an optimization between power output, aerodynamic resistance, vehicle mass, and other practical considerations. Solar arrays on solar cars are usually mounted using industrial grade double-sided adhesive tape right onto the car's body.
To date most solar cars have been built for the purpose of solar car races. The World Solar Challenge features a field of competitors from around the world who race to cross the Australian continent, over a distance of 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi). The American Solar Challenge features mostly collegiate teams racing in timed intervals in the United States and Canada. The Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge is an annual solar-powered car race for high school students. The event attracts teams from around the world, but mostly from American high schools.
Although prototypes of solar cars have been built, and the Stella, which won the 2013 World Solar Challenge, completed a demonstration run from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2014, commercialization of solar cars is probably a decade in the future.