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SOLAR-POWERED CARS ARE ABOUT TO BECOME A FEASIBLE ALTERNATIVE FOR CONSUMERS

by Christina Sarich, Underground Reporter:

A Beijing car company is making the reality of solar-powered cars more palpable than ever. Until now, visionaries like Elon Musk have dreamed up an integration of both our travel and home energy needs so that we can run our computers, lights, washing machines — and, yes, cars — on solar power instead of fossil fuels.

The only challenge with this worthy goal is that many have been wary of investing in an electric vehicle due to the absence of charging stations in their homes or neighborhoods. A Solution? Thin-film solar cells that are on the car, itself, to make a six-hour road trip possible.

A company called Hanergy, based in Beijing, China, has launched commercial solar-powered cars that could help customers take the leap of faith needed to transition from gas-guzzling, earth-polluting cars, to vehicles powered entirely by the sun.

While driving your solar car, it would recharge itself.

Hanergy says the current solar energy conversion rate of its high-end solar cells is 31.6 percent. This is expected to go up to 38 percent by 2020, to 42 percent by 2025, and would make the production of four different types of solar-powered cars possible.

The energy is stored in lithium batteries and can also be charged at charging stations to further increase the travel range. The combined battery and solar range for their cars is 350 kilometers (217.48 miles), with a solar-only range of 80 kilometers (49.71 miles).

Like a small space station, the solar panels can also be unfolded like origami to extend the charging surface area when the car is parked. A full solar charge can be achieved in six hours using this technology.

The cells even respond to changes in the weather. They can also clean themselves with “ultrasonic cleaning technology” to utilize the utmost renewable energy available to us by a blazing star that provides enough juice to power the entire planet for millions of years.

Automobile pollution and fossil fuel use has contributed heavily to the environmental burden our planet has to bear, but this no longer needs to be our reality. There are even prototypes for solar-powered cars that create more energy than they use.

Fortunately, companies like Hanergy and Tesla are meeting the growing demand for alternative-fuel cars. The global market for cars that run on something besides fossil fuels reached a whopping 740,000 units last year.

Hanergy plans to extend its solar-technology for use on buses, recreational vehicles, tour buses, and catering trucks. Maybe they can team up with homeowners, as well, for fully integrated use of solar power.

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4 comments to SOLAR-POWERED CARS ARE ABOUT TO BECOME A FEASIBLE ALTERNATIVE FOR CONSUMERS

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    Cars that won’t need gas. I’ve always liked that idea. I keep hoping & wishing, and sometimes I look at the numbers and do a bit of calculations, and HERE is what I come up with.

    Today’s solar panels (about 20-25% efficient). At this point in time, you’d need a “solar array” at home, to be able to fully charge up your electric vehicle. Panels can be bought for as little as $700 for ONE THOUSAND WATTS of panels. (70 cents/watt). This is very good news because it’s now cheaper to set up your own solar system, than to just keep buying power from the grid.

    Anyway, if you cover the roof of a typical minivan, you’ll have about 500 watts of panels.
    The CONVERSION of WATTS into HorsePower, is about 745 Watts = 1HP.

    In MY minivan, I’ve got a digital OBD2 “Scan Gauge II” that also functions as “Digital gauges” showing 4 readouts. I can choose from more than 15 sensor readings.

    I sometimes activate it to show HORSE POWER being used in real time.

    My 4,000 pound vehicle, normal highway [email protected] consumes about 35-45HP. (going up hills is more, coasting down again is nothing but for idling power.

    Another important conversion, is the Gasoline Engine HP is NOT the same as ELECTRIC MOTOR HP.

    I don’t know WHY it would be SOOoo different, but it is. There are all kinds of things going on. Different “power curves”, torque ratings at RPM, etc.
    ….but the GENERAL RULE is that 3HP electric = 5HP gas.

    So, a 30HP electric car system, is about equal to a 50HP gas engine system.
    At normal highway cruising speeds, a vehicle that is LIGHTER than my heavy cow, will likely consume about only about 18HP of electricity. (13.5kw)

    Those roof panels on the van (500w), would require about 6 days time, to give you 1 hour of highway driving time.

    Look at the 13.5kw @ 55mph. Your 0.5kw of roof panels, the average conditions-charging all day long, will give you about 10 minutes of driving time= about SEVEN or EIGHT MILES of driving per day with the power you get from the car’s roof.

    Lighter car? more miles. Fatter cargo? Fewer miles.

    So yes, you’d better have a decent SOLAR system at home, and have it BIGGER than your home really needs so you can use the excess to recharge your car.

    In a real life MAD MAX scenario, with ELECTRIC CARS ONLY, you’d chop off the extra weight and put extra panels up, as well as carry some panels in the car to setup when parked.

    It would be possible to do a MAD MAX electric bug-out car that would be capable of going perhaps 20-30 miles each day.

    • Ed_B

      Well, there you go again, Craig – reining in wildly overly-optimistic enthusiasm with science, reason, and math. Shame on you… lol.

      There is a concept in energy discussions that so many people are either unaware of or they simply skip over it because it does not support their fantasies… and that is the concept of energy density. In low earth orbit, for example, sunlight has about 900W / m^2. The earth’s atmosphere attenuates this considerably, thereby reducing the number of watts per sq. meter at the earth’s surface. As you correctly point out, 75-80% of this is not recovered via solar cells as usable electricity. All this adds up to solar being of low energy density as opposed to traditional electrical generation from dams, fossil fuel burning steam plants, nat gas fired turbines, and nuclear-electric plants… all of which are high density power creators that do not depend on the wind blowing or the sun shining.

      The energy that can be recovered from small solar systems is good for low intensity uses, such as running efficient lighting, fans, pumps, charging small device batteries, and running computers and other electronic gadgets. What it is not good at is running most things that heat or cool… electric water heating (although solar water heating works quite well), space heating, clothes drying, stoves, furnaces, and air-conditioning.

      I can see solar cells on cars as a way to stretch out the amount of charge that the on-board batteries can hold but powering a car with them for long drives does not look feasible to me for the very reasons you outlined. It looks to me more like an R&D project that is aimed at finding out how much the batteries can be stretched and range thereby increased. Hopefully, some useful break-throughs will be made that benefit us all but it could be years in the future before it is commercially viable.

      • Craig Escaped Detroit

        Home air conditioning and space heating is actually pretty easy with solar electric.

        Those “mini-split” (ductless) heat pump systems are extra efficient because they don’t suffer from the typical 10-30% losses of the ducts.

        It’s very easy to purchase a 12k BTU ductless heatpump rated at 20 SEER, and it will do the job of 15k BTU central system, and do it using only 900-1000 watts.

        I actually was using 2 tons (24,000 BTU ductless system) to completely replace an older 3 ton CENTRAL unit. It was a great swap. (total energy consumption at max output was 2000 watts.

        The old 3 ton CENTRAL unit (SEER rating was 10.), used to consume 6,000 watts to heat & cool the same house.

        (Double the SEER rating, and you reduce energy consumption by 50%.) SEER ratings are measured differently than EER ratings for standard a/c units.

        8 golf cart batteries (in series) gives you a 48vdc battery bank, and if you don’t consume any more than 50% D.O.D. then you can consume 5Kw-Hrs from those batteries.

        Setup 2 banks, and you’ve got 10Kw-Hrs of useable night time power, etc.

        The best batteries are the electric FORK LIFT batteries (known as IBE type). They can give up to 20 years of service life. Wow! But they are expensive. Wow again.

        Lithium ion and LiFePo batteries have a high energy density per pound of weight, but they are double, triple and more money than flooded lead acid types of the same capacity.

        AGM’s and GELs won’t yield as much energy per pound either, and cost more, AND have a lower “Surge” limit for max output.

        The old fashioned ALKALI (Edison) batteries, are amazing, and some have been in service over 75 years and still going STRONG. (lower energy density and it seems the ONLY maker right now is located in CHINA.)

        Tracking mounts, are so expensive, that most people avoid them and just spend that extra money on MORE PANELS with a stationary mount (and nothing to break down). But some situations really need a tracker.

        There are a lot of choices out there. PEEL & Stick solar flexible sheeting, is great to apply to steel roofing, and nobody even knows it’s there. (But it puts out 1/2 the watts per sq-ft, so you need MORE surface area to cover it. But they do not stop working if a bullet goes thru it.

        The THIN FILM on GLASS, also 1/2 the efficiency, but lowest prices, and perhaps more delicate?

        The standard silicon panels behind tempered glass with aluminum frames, are between 15-22% efficient, and can be found for less than $0.75 per watt.

        Keeping the panels from overheating is important, because heat equals resistance to electrical flow. So it’s important to have good air flow UNDER them etc. (I wonder how common it is to deal with roof nesting animals or hornets nests under the panels?)

        Make the air-space distance just right, and you’ll attract raccoons, rats, etc. So it’s better to put EXTRA space between the roof surface and the panels, so that animals will feel TOO exposed and NOT want to hide under it.

        Panels directly mounted onto the roof will get much hotter, and you lose, perhaps 40% of all your output due to the heat-resistance.

        NEVER NEVER NEVER try to make a system at 12VDC, because you’d need such FAT WIRES to handle the loads, you’d go BROKE. WHO can afford 1″ thick copper cables everywhere? Hahaha.

        Design everything for at least 48VDC or HIGHER. All those panels are rated either at 600V or even as high as 1000 Volts. Higher voltage, allows SKINNIER wires and MUCH LESS money and lower AMP breakers too. Follow ALL safety regs. or somebody can get KILLED. This is SERIOUS SHIT.

        On a SIDE note, I’d like to sink a few “grounding rods” around here, and using a volt/amps meter, TRY to find some of that “STRAY VOLTAGE” that farmers often have trouble with.

        I’d like to find some of that stray power, and TAP INTO it for the house. It can be pretty decent big power.

        There was a case around Detroit, an underground (probably 3 phase commercial power), had a leak/short going into the dirt, and a POLICE HORSE walking over it, HOOF SPACING just right to make the “in and out” connection and the horse was KNOCKED UP into the air, and fell down dead. Testing did NOT find it until a 2nd horse died the same way, and they kept testing until they found it. It must have happened near the police horse stables.

        Power companies in MOST states, use the EARTH as the “return ground connection”. (California makes power companies run a ground wire all the way back to the generating stations and thus, eliminates ALL stray voltages, etc.)

        But in MY area, they use the EARTH ground, so I MAY be able to find some FREE POWER, eh?

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    If you want to watch a VERY good movie about surviving a very difficult situation, then watch the movie “The Martian”.

    An astronaut gets stranded on MARS and has to stretch out his meager supplies to live for a lot longer than the supplies were made for.

    There is already a Mars “Habitat” on site, but he has to convert things to make it into his own “Grow Room”. He recycles human waste from other missions, he makes water from combustion chemicals, and grows potatoes.

    He also figures out how to convert an OLDER Mars mission robot, to go back on line with Earth, and together, they make a better connection, etc.

    He knows he’s gotta make it to the far away landing site if he wants to get rescued on the next scheduled mission, so he cannibalizes ONE Mars vehicle for the extra batteries (Longer driving range), and scavenges extra SOLAR PANELS from other things to put them on top of the Mars-Car and carries EXTRA panels with him, so he can increase his charging rate “on the road”.

    It’s a VERY interesting, uplifting and clever story with a happy ending.

    Put your mind to it, and you can do almost ANYTHING.

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