The simplicity of photovoltaic motors makes them ideal candidates for fully autonomous applications requiring thousands of operating hours without maintenance, like water pumping. Photovoltaic motors use photovoltaic cells optically commutated by a shutter driven by the motor rotor to convert light energy into mechanical energy, without the need of any brushes or other power electronics. With the decrease of photovoltaic cells price, photovoltaic motors could be more affordable and reliable than conventional systems, and therefore particularly well suited for off-grid applications. The concept has been patented under various forms, but the scientific literature is so far very scarce. In this article, we attempt to classify photovoltaic motors, and to explain in details their physical working principle. Then we compare the different architectures by defining two pre-design factors linked to the system maximal output power. Finally, we report first experimental results on a photovoltaic switched reluctance motor (PV SRM) prototype using a 6/4 switched reluctance machine and 12 photovoltaic cells. © 2015 European Union.
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