Has anyone thought much about solar electric vehicles?

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Yellow Line Ins...
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Has anyone thought much about solar electric vehicles?

I've recently written an article about solar electric vehicles. I have found a lot of information on two ends of the spectrum - solar electric golf carts and NEVs, and solar electric very high tech, very aerodynamic race cars. I'm wondering if anyone on this list has info or thoughts about solar electric, regular personal automobiles? I'd love to hear from you.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

...We can imagine having our own personal electric vehicles, covered in solar panels, that recharge while we drive them. But is it all in our imagination, or can it actually work? It turns out, solar electric vehicles are very real. From small and light solar golf carts, to some of the most advanced vehicles ever invented, solar electric vehicles are here. In fact, ultra high tech racing vehicles have been competing for two decades in solar electric vehicle races across the globe. They reach highway speeds or more, and can drive all day.

Of course, solar electric vehicles are affected by cloudy days and dusty arrays, but there is still a ton of potential here for regular passenger vehicles. As electric vehicles become more and more popular, and more people start converting their gas cars to electric, this is the perfect time to develop workable and affordabel strategies for fitting our personal electric vehicles with solar panels and solar laminates. ...

... Read Full Article at Yellow Line's Blog.

Thanks for your input!
~ liz

MikeB
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Re: Has anyone thought much about solar electric vehicles?

Hi liz,

Personally, I think solar-electric vehicles are a dead end. There simply isn't enough surface area on a small vehicle to generate the power for anything other than a toy.

I did some math for the Persu Hybrid (then called the Venture One), which is an electric-drive enclosed motorcycle. The early estimates were that it would require 6kW to sustain a 60mph cruise. Given the size of it's narrow body, I figured a 50 watt solar panel was about all you could expect to fit onto the roof. Working the numbers, that meant that for every 2 hours of direct sunlight, you increased the driving time by 1 minute. Frankly, that sucks, it's just not worth the extra complexity and cost to implement such a scheme. The Persu is a model of efficiency: combining the aerodynamics, safety, and comfort of a car with the size and nimbleness of a motorcycle. If a solar roof won't work on that type of vehicle, then the idea simply isn't very feasible.

A far more realistic approach is to simply cover your parking area with solar panels instead. Now you have the square footage to get 2-3kW of peak solar generation, and an all-day charge could easily provide the power for a daily commute. Of course, the power has to be stored somehow, so that the vehicle can recharge when parked, but stationary batteries are much cheaper than mobile ones (you don't have to pay extra for a lightweight chemistry).

My electric vehicle: CuMoCo C130 scooter.

jdh2550_1
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Re: Has anyone thought much about solar electric vehicles?

I agree with MikeB - the way to use solar is in a fixed location and then use the electricity however you want. As well as surface area most current solar panels are very directionally sensitive (they like to be pointed straight at the sun). So, not only does a cloudy day affect you, but if you're driving north or south (or whether there are sunny spots where you can park your car in the correct orientation).

There are some new "nano" coatings coming out that improve this by focusing light from a much wider range of angles. However, much easier and more effective to build a solar carport than a solar car.

MikeB - I'm surprised they say it will take 6kW (8hp) for a 60mph cruise in a lightweight, aerodynamic vehicle. I would have thought you could get away with half that.

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

MikeB
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Re: Has anyone thought much about solar electric vehicles?

MikeB - I'm surprised they say it will take 6kW (8hp) for a 60mph cruise in a lightweight, aerodynamic vehicle. I would have thought you could get away with half that.

Well, this was an early estimate, essentially based on simple spreadsheet analysis. The Persu is about halfway between car and motorcycle, so think 3 wheels, 1500lbs, frontal surface equal to 1/2 a compact car, and a drag coefficient around 0.32. They were hoping to beat those numbers, but motor and battery size needed to be based on less than optimal assumptions.

My electric vehicle: CuMoCo C130 scooter.

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