Gear Propulsion Solar Car


MiniScience's Solar Racer activity introduces students to alternative energy concepts while incorporating problem solving, design and modeling. In addition, students will experience using hand tools as they construct their solar vehicle.

Students can explore:

  • Propulsion types and drive concepts
  • Basic soldering techniques and electronic concepts
  • Alternative energies like solar power
 Teacher Preparation:

During construction of the solar racer vehicle, students can experiment and comprehend methods of power transfer, soldering (optional), gear alignment and calculating gear ratios. It is up to the teacher to make sure this background information is provided to students in some manner.



The federal government has encouraged alternative forms of transportation due to a limited supply of oil and increasing environmental pollution. Solar cars are just one of many transportation concepts emerging. Solar cars use solar cell panels instead of gasoline as the fuel. As a result, exhaust fumes and oil consumption are eliminated.

The solar cell panel generates an electrical charge that is stored in a battery and used to provide energy as the vehicle is driven. The lighter the vehicle, the less energy used and the farther the vehicle will travel. In cloudy days, or at night, energy can be drawn from reserve batteries. In the future, charge stations will be located on the road sides for quick battery charging.

Materials Checklist:

Before using the kit please make sure you have all the items listed below. This kit has the supplies to build at least one type of solar car model. Solar cars may be propelled using a pulley/ rubber band method or some types of interlocking gears.

  1. Solar Cell
  2. AC motor
  3. Rear Slicks 1 9/16" diameter x 5/8" wide (1/2" wide for geared slicks)
  4. Front Wheels 1 3/8" diameter
  5. 1/8" dowel for axles
  6. Traction Bands (for non-geared slicks)
  7. Eyelets or washers
  8. Straw
  9. Wood Sheet 5" x 2" x 3/32" (or larger, so you can cut to any size)
  10. Basswood 5mm x 5mm x 20cm stick
  11. Motor Mount (With straps if needed)
  12. Procedure Sheet

Propulsion Systems:

Propulsion systems include using a solar cell and toy motor with a:

  • gear drive
  • Pulley and Rubber band drive

Advanced students are encouraged to experiment with different size pulleys, and gears if available.

Basic Tools Required

These items may be required to build the solar vehicle: (You can make your solar car model without them as well)

  • craft knife, used to cut or trim soft wood.
  • white glue, wood glue or glue gun
  • soldering Iron, needed if you need to solder wires.
  • Pliers, used to connect and twist wires together if needed
  • rulers, used for measurements
  • Pencil, used for marking

Safety Recommendations

During the construction of the solar vehicle, the following safety precautions should be observed.

  • Wear safety glasses
  • Use care with sharp cutting blades
  • Avoid touching the tip of the glue gun or soldering gun
  • Put safety first

Competition Categories

Competition between students can be based on design, drawings, final appearance, distance-traveled, speed, etc.

Races can be held between cars that have similar or different types of propulsion Systems.

In addition, teachers could implement a problem-solving category for advanced or older students. Teachers would provide students with the solar racer kit then instruct students to make use of additional materials in the classroom to construct a customized solar vehicle. additional items could include wood scraps, stickers, paint, CD, colored wheels and more. How elaborate or complex the solar cars are depends on imagination and resources.

Solar car for an experimental science project

Solar car may also be used in an experimental science project with question, hypothesis and a results table and chart .

A good question for this project is: How does the angle of solar panel in relation to the sunlight affect the performance of the car?

Hypothesis: The answer you guess for the above question will be your hypothesis.

This is an important question because we can use the result in designing real solar cars. If the angle of the solar panel is important, cars must be designed so that the driver or an automated system can change the angle of the solar panel. If the angle is not important, then the solar panel may be mounted horizontally on the roof of the car.


In a sunny day, around noon time take your solar car outside on a smooth flat surface. Initially adjust the solar panel to be horizontal. Place the car on the flat surface and record the distance it drives per second. That will be the speed.

Then change the angle of the solar panel so that it will have a right angle with the sunlight. Repeat your test again and record the speed again.

Report the sunlight exposure angle in which your solar car had the highest speed.

Make a graph:

You can also make a bar graph with one vertical bar for each of the angles you test. The height of each bar will be the speed of your solar car in that angle.

More detail instructions for construction of the solar car are available HERE.

You can buy the solar car materials in a kit.  It is available both as a single pack and class pack. Kit content may be different from the images shown in this page.

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