How to Build a Small Solar-Powered Car

Written by joanne robitaille
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How to Build a Small Solar-Powered Car
Small-scale solar-powered cars require a single solar panel. (solar powered car image by Yali Shi from

Creating a solar-powered car on a small scale is the first step to creating a full-scale version. Vehicles that run on solar power still require motors to propel them forward, but the necessary energy is provided by solar cells. Depending on the complexity of the car body you're designing, putting together a small solar-powered car is a straightforward process.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Small solar cell
  • 2 small 3- to 6-volt motors
  • 2 millimetre PVC sheet
  • 3 rubber wheels
  • Steel axel
  • Red and black wires
  • Electrical connectors
  • On/Off switch
  • Craft knife
  • Insulation tape
  • Electrical screwdriver
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Soldering iron
  • Drawing equipment

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  1. 1

    Draw the outline of the car's body on the PVC sheet. Make sure that there's enough room on the body of the car to carry the solar panel. Once you have the car's body drawn out, the PVC can easily be cut using a craft knife.

  2. 2

    Measure the exact dimensions of the rubber wheel. In order to keep the car going in a straight line, the opening for the front wheel needs to be only marginally larger than the wheel itself. Cut the opening with a craft knife.

  3. 3

    Solder short red and black wires to each of the motors. The red wire should be connected to the positive terminal on the motor and the black wire to the negative. Attach the motors to the PVC body with insulation tape, making sure the axels point away from the car.

  4. 4

    Turn the car over, and draw the four short wires onto the top surface of the body. Strip the ends of the wires and connect them to the electrical connectors. Each side of the connector should have a positive wire from one motor and a negative from the other. Attach another length of red and black wires to the opposite ends of the connector.

  5. 5

    Affix the wheels to the car. The back wheels are slid onto the axels that protrude from the motors (wheels with 2 millimetre diameter holes will fit snugly). When selecting the axel for the front wheel, ensure that its diameter is smaller than the opening on the wheel since the front axel is locked in place. To attach the front wheel, turn the car on its back and put the wheel through the opening. Secure the axel in place using insulation tape.

  6. 6

    Cut the protruding black wire so that it is half the length of the red wire. Connect the shortened black wire to the on/off switch. The remainder of the black wire is attached to the opposite end of the switch. Connect both the red and black wires to the solar panel. Place the solar panel on the body of the car, and secure it in place with insulation tape.

Tips and warnings

  • Be careful when using the soldering iron to ensure that you don't burn yourself.

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