- Rubber bands
- Small electric motor
- Plastic bottle caps, film canister caps, toy wheels such as K'nex, etc.
- Stiff wire or wooden shish-kabob skewers
- Straws or eye screws to mount the axles
- Cardboard milk carton, water bottle, cardboard, foam board, or similar materials
DIY Solar Car in 14 Steps
Designing and building a car from scratch involves a lot of perseverance and trial and error, so don't be discouraged if yours doesn't work right away. Experiment to see if you can improve the design of your DIY solar car.
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The Law of Conservation of Energy
The Law of Conservation of Energy says that energy can't be created or destroyed, but can change its form. And that's what happens with energy from the Sun — it changes into lots of different forms:
- Plants convert light energy from the Sun into chemical energy (food) by the process of photosynthesis. Animals eat plants and use chemical energy for all their activities.
- Heat energy from the Sun impacts changing weather patterns that produce wind. Wind turbines then convert wind power into electrical energy.
- Right now, much of human activity uses energy from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These energy sources are created over very long periods of time from decayed and fossilized living matter (animals and plants), and the energy in that living matter originally came from the Sun through photosynthesis.
The Sun provides more energy to the Earth in one hour than the whole planet needs in a year. Imagine if we could capture that energy directly and convert it to a form that could power our cities, homes, and cars! Many scientists around the world are researching how we can improve our use of the Sun's energy. One way is to use solar solar panels to collect solar energy to heat air and water.
Another way is to use photovoltaic (PV) cells, also called solar cells, to convert sunlight directly into electricity. ('Photovoltaic' essentially means 'light electricity'.) PV cells use a material such as silicon to absorb energy from sunlight.
When the cell is hooked up in a circuit with wires, the electricity will power a load (light bulb, car motor, etc.) you connect to its path. PV cells today are still only able to capture a small fraction of the Sun's energy, so acres of them are necessary to collect enough light to create electricity on a large scale.
A lot more scientific work needs to be done to make them more efficient and take up less space. Despite the challenges, solar panels are used to power many things such as emergency signs, school crossing lights, and more. Many people are also able to power their homes by mounting solar panels on the roof, and this will only get easier as the technology continues to advance.
Once you've completed your car, think about other ways you could experiment with solar power.
Could you build a solar boat or water pump?
Could you perform electrolysis to divide water into hydrogen and oxygen using a solar panel? How can we harness the amazing power of the Sun?
Maybe you'll be the next scientist to help find out!