So what can you power with the sun these days?

So What Can You Power With the Sun These Days?

There's probably a reason you haven't seen solar-powered cars on your commute yet.

As evidenced by the ongoing World Solar Challenge, right now solar vehicles are designed for efficiency and pretty much nothing else. But drawing power from the sun is getting more popular.

SEE MORE:Trends that are changing the solar industry

"We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the sun. We don't have to do anything. It just works," Elon Musk said at the Powerwall debut event.

Elon Musk wants to put the whole U.S. on solar — starting with Tesla's Powerwalls, which are giant batteries that charge with solar power. It makes sense. Solar power can replace a lot of what we traditionally use fossil fuels for, from driving to flying.

See what you can do with solar power:
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So what can you power with the sun these days?

Tesla PowerWall

Photo: Tesla

A portable solar panel outside of a backpack on the grass of a park along with other technological devices

(Photo: Getty)

Students install photovoltaic panels on September 24, 2015 in Ungersheim, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)
BELFAST, ME - AUGUST 6: An energy efficiency program in Belfast led to this 180-panel solar array atop the city's fire department roof and might yet include, pending city council consideration, a solar installation at an old landfill that, together with the fire department array, would provide 20 percent of Belfast's electricity needs. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
The prototype of the hybrid platfom PH4S which combines renewable energy from solar, wind, wave and tidal sources, is launched on the port of Saint Nazaire on July 17, 2015. The pilot platform includes a wind turbine, solar panels, a tidal turbine and a wave power system capturing the energy of currents and waves. AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
A solar panel road is pictured during its inauguration in Tourouvre, Normandy, northwestern France, December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Workers plant wolfberries among solar penals in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China, April 18, 2017. Picture taken April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
Project instigator and pilot Raphael Domjan (R) congratulates test pilot Damian Hischier after a test flight of the SolarStratos aircraft, a solar-powered two-seater aircraft with a mission to fly some 24,000 meters (over 78,000 feet) above earth set to take place in 2018, in Payerne, Switzerland May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A thermosolar power plant is pictured at Noor II near the city of Ouarzazate, Morocco, November 4, 2016. Picture taken November 4, 2016. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard, is pictured before landing at San Pablo airport in Seville, southern Spain June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

Solar Impulse II is attempting a global circumnavigation using just the power derived from the solar cells on its wings. Not exactly a 747 yet, though.

How about plain old electricity? You can get laptops with integrated solar charging built to order.

Or use any one of the solar chargers already on the market to run anything with a USB port.

This extends to the ultimate in redundant, niche products: solar-powered cat toys and solar-powered robots for cleaning your larger solar panels.

SEE MORE:Out-of-this-world photos from Australia's World Solar Challenge

Solar power works even better in space than it does on Earth because there's no interference from the atmosphere. The International Space Station? It runs on the sun.

NASA has even toyed with the idea of harnessing energy in orbit and beaming it back down to Earth via microwave or laser. Nothing has come of the concept yet, though, because at the moment, it's still not cost-effective.

Guess we're stuck with plain old rooftop solar panels for now.
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