Environmental Engineering Reference
Small neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) have been gaining
popularity throughout the United States and in other parts of the world.
There are several companies that manufacture and sell NEVs in the United
States. Some of these employ solar-electric technology.
NEVs are also known as low speed vehicles (LSVs) and can legally
be driven on any street with a posted speed limit no greater than 35 mph.
This means that most urban environments, and many small, rural com-
munities are appropriate locales for NEVs. As gasoline and energy costs
escalate in the future, NEVs may become even more attractive. The bat-
teries will need replacement perhaps every five years, but that is a large
expense. In addition, thanks to recent legislation, NEV owners are now
eligible for a federal tax credit.
In solar NEVs the solar-electric panels and the charge controller keep
the batteries charged while not overcharging them. The owner can park
the NEV in the sun and the vehicle will charge itself. If it is a cloudy day
and the owner wants to charge the vehicle, it can be plugged into ordinary
The shape of an NEV is free to take many forms, since it is not con-
strained by the conventional internal combustion engine's requirements
for space. The electric motor is very small and the battery compartment is
kept low in the vehicle for a low center of gravity, so it is often under the
rear storage bay. Amorphous cell panels allow simple curved solar panels
to be a part of the vehicle.
The Sunmobile SunVee is a solar neighborhood vehicle. Solar electric
panels are integrated with the body to charge batteries which power an
electric motor. The neighborhood range is about 30 miles with a top speed
of about 25 miles/hour. The Sunmobile is based on a commercial four-
wheeled, two person, pedaling bike, called a Rhoades Car.
The Sunmobile is charged solely with photovoltaic panels mounted
as a roof canopy. It will travel at up to 30 mph with a range of up to 30
miles on a fully charged battery. A twist grip on the handlebars feeds in-
formation to a motor controller mounted under the chassis.
A digital meter shows the voltage and the amps being consumed or
charging the batteries and the accumulated amp/hours. The amp/hour
reading is comparable to a gas gauge, showing how much power has
been consumed. The charge controller determines when and how much
to charge the batteries from the solar panels. The Sunmobile weighs about