If you’re already sold on the many benefits of driving an electric car, then you’re probably in the pro-solar-energy camp as well. You may have even considered the interesting proposition of marrying the two into a solar electric car, charging your EV for free with the sun rays currently cooking your paint job. But if there are two technologies that don’t scream “cheap startup cost,” they’re electric cars and solar power.
Unless of course you head on over to Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant and the internet’s aunt with a hoarding problem. That’s exactly where I’ve found the most awesome solar electric family car for the most awesome price. And it’s just weird enough to make it into this week’s edition of the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week series!
While solar-powered electric cars in the rest of the world command eye-watering price tags, the humble little made-in-China version here starts at a reasonable $5,800.
It’s so cheap that it’s got that part of my brain that is susceptible to prepperism working in overdrive.
Part of me wants to turn this solar-powered electric car into my ultimate Mad Max apocalypse vehicle.
I can already see it now…
Wavy transition to indicate dream sequence, the picture returns to focus on a dusty armageddon hellscape with an overly orange filter.
It’s early. The sun is just beginning to rise over the horizon, jagged on the broken rooftops. Easterly winds blow harshly over the barren landscape, the world’s once-fertile soil long ago reduced to arid dust.
Roads are a sparse remnant of the past. Most have since been consumed by the wandering sands. The world is mostly navigated by the last few two-stroke dirt bikes and large trucks, used by the roving gangs in their futile skirmishes to seize the meager fossil-fuel supplies that remain after the collapse.
I keep to the shadows as I navigate my most valuable possession – one of the few surviving solar powered electric cars – around the ruins of a world I can barely remember.
It was one of my last purchases ever, a late-night Alibaba impulse buy in the before times to which I may now owe my life. The container arrived in port just before society collapsed.
In the dawn haze, I silently roll through the devastated passageways, when too late I see the smashed windows of an abandoned building next to me.
The shattered bits of glass crunch under my struggling 12-inch wheels. I wince as the sound is seemingly amplified by my otherwise silent electric car. Under my breath I curse the designers for choosing to outfit what was once a solar-powered four-seater family electric car with what appear to be four spare tires.
Holding my breath, I listen for the sound of a stirring biker gang as my “front disc brake” holds my car and me in a tenuous suspension of time. My eyes dart left and right, then down to the touchscreen display showing a 7-inch live feed from the backup camera.
I didn’t choose the life of a drifting loner, but here I am nonetheless, my three-point seatbelt safely buckling me into the adjustable seat, my hand poised over the pleather gearshift as I prepare to throw it in reverse at the first sign of trouble.
Hearing no sounds from the forsaken building next to me, I continue my silent crawl through the gaps between the boarded-up or half-collapsed structures.
In the shadows I find solace, but my car’s battery has become low. The glassy surface of my rooftop 300W solar panel yearns for the sun’s rays, no matter the risk.
Every few days I make this perilous journey to capture the rising sun, charging my battery in the hours I can before the barbarians rise from their drunken slumber.
I don’t dare reach my top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). I travel more efficiently at slower speeds, and I save the red-lining for emergencies when I’m forced to outrun the roaming thugs.
These days my solar-powered electric car, with its lack of dependence on gasoline, is a prized commodity; I shudder to think what they would do to get their hands on it.
Fortunately my 5,000W motor has proven to stand the test of time, its nearly seven ponies always ready at a moment’s notice whenever I’m forced to jam the accelerator to the floor.
I reach the edge of the ramshackle hamlet, all that is left of a once bustling city. I find a spot out of the shadows to gingerly back my car up onto a ramp I’ve fashioned from an old billboard, its tattered graphic of a sugary drink calling out to a long-forgotten consumer. The early morning sun is weaker, and so I angle my roof to make the most of the indirect rays.
Fortunately the “Don’t slip slope” feature of my solar-powered car keeps me steady on the jury-rigged ramp as I soak up enough electricity to get me through the next few days.
With a full charge I have a maximum range of 120 km (75 miles). I’ve never needed more than that as I’ve stuck to the safety of these familiar ruins, venturing out like this only when necessary to gather supplies.
But at night when I charge my radio from my car’s USB port, I pick up the transmissions from the Community. Oh how I long to voyage there one day, to set out on an odyssey to the Bay Area and roll through the safety of the Community’s gates.
I’ve heard rumors from the few other friendly survivors I’ve met along the way, a gentleman with an old Alta electric dirt bike and sweet old lady with a one-seater electric ELF. They claim to have heard from others about great walls of curbside recycling bins creating a safety perimeter around the sprawling egalitarian compound. They spoke of neighborhood watch rotations manned by happy volunteers, community gardens of crisp kale, and an endless supply of granola.
Of course no one has seen these things firsthand; only stories make it our way. And yet we hold out hope as we each wrestle over the decision to set out towards the fabled Community.
I fear for my life each time I run the gauntlet in search of my biweekly solar charge. And yet I yearn to escape the traveling hoards, finally reaching the safety of numbers provided by my people.
I catch myself daydreaming about the Community again and quickly shake my head to sharpen back my senses.
Glancing down to my LCD digital display, I note that my battery has reached 72% charge. “That’ll do,” I mutter softly to myself as I pat the dashboard gingerly and release the handbrake to start my surreptitious journey back.
The soft sand crunches under my now nearly treadless tires as I glance up to the mirror. Through the hatchback’s dusty rear window I can just make out movement in the distance. The vandal hordes must be starting to stir.
It’s high time for me to be on my way. I point my solar car back toward the shadows and begin to wind my way around the familiar obstacles.
The first sounds of fighting in the distance begin to drift in on the late morning winds. With every passing day the skirmishes grow more intense while the fuel stockpiles further dwindle.
Yet my modest little solar-powered electric car continues its slow but steady trudge forward. Toward what, I do not know. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to set out for the Community. Until then, I’ll continue to care for my car well and it will continue to aptly serve me in return.
I grip the wheel as I near my encampment, checking carefully that I haven’t been followed.
I back in under the overhanging tarp, pulling it the rest of the way down over my little solar car as I continue to converse with myself.
“Mel Gibson,” I say. “Eat your heart out.”
Before you start preparing an order…
OK, back to reality now, everyone.
As much fun as it is to window shop for these funny electric vehicles on Alibaba, I’m not suggesting anyone actually play out this little fantasy of mine.
This weekly series is mostly for kicks and giggles, and serves as a fun exercise in diving into the myriad of odd and interesting electric vehicles on Alibaba and her sister site AliExpress.
Sure, I’ve actually purchased plenty of things on both platforms, but you shouldn’t take such transactions lightly. If you do want to make an Alibaba purchase, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve communicated very carefully with the vendor. Go over everything multiple times to make sure everyone is on the same page and you know exactly what to expect when you open your crate several weeks to several months in the future.
But if you want to play it safe instead and just enjoy window shopping on the platform, you may want to check out some of my other fun finds from past weeks. And if you stumble upon any of your own weird electric vehicle finds, feel free to shoot me a message about it (you’ll find my contact info in my bio below). I may just feature it in a future article like the following fun finds:
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