Over the last few years, people have asked me several times why electric car manufacturers aren’t putting solar panels on their cars to charge the battery. It sounds like a logical thing to do, isn’t it? I always argued there might be two good reasons for car builders to shy away from this idea. First of all the surface area for solar cells on a car is limited and their orientation not ideal, hence a low energy production could be expected. Secondly, solar panels are not cheap. Pardon me, they were not cheap. Nowadays they are. And hence… things have changed lately.
Tagged: electric car
It looks like they rolled out a Pixar movie, but they are very real: the nine electric vans of the UK’s national mail service that recently hit the London roads. Designed and manufactured by startup car builder Arrival, it is probably the cutest mail van you have ever seen.
Most of the New Year’s receptions and parties are now behind us and everyone is getting back to work. Time to look ahead to what we can expect from the battle against climate change in 2017. I identified 4 positive and 4 negative trends, which you find in the infographic below. Do you agree with my predictions? What do you think is missing?
Busy times for Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk. Last week he presented Model X, the companies latest feat of engineering. With a range of 250 miles (around 400 kilometers), speeding up to 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds and falcon wing doors that give the car a Back to the Future allure, Musk fulfilled the boldest expectations of enthusiasts around the world. Being the safest SUV ever built — thanks to i.a. the batteries in the floor that lower the centre of mass and improve the balance — it even offers a bioweapon defense mode. Yes, you read that correct: a bioweapon defense mode. Just in case of a nuclear attack, you know.
There are many advantages of driving electric, but one that will probably attract dads and moms is the Model X’s large storage space and the easy access to the back seats. The electric motor takes up much less space than a classical combustion engine, making room for a trunk in the front of the car. And thanks to the falcon wings, it’s much easier to reach the back seats and install a child’s seat and reach the third row.
Yet, if Elon Musk really wants to target families with this SUV, he might be faced with disappointment. Price indicators predict a hole of 75 000$ (68 000 euro) in the family’s budget for the cheapest version of the car. Are families willing and able to put that amount of money on the table? Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors to make electric vehicles available for the large public. Nor the Model X, nor the Model S — a full-electric sedan starting from 71 000$ launched in 2012 — fulfill this promise.
But Elon Musk is fighting on many frontiers at the same time. His company SolarCity, which offers all-in-one solar energy solutions for residents and businesses, announced earlier this week that they developed the world’s most efficient rooftop panels in production. A third-party certification testing provider noted down an efficiency of 22.04%. The previous record holder was producer SunPower with an efficiency of 21.5%. SolarCities’ panels would also perform better in high temperatures than competitors. Overall, the company promises a price reduction of 20 eurocents per watt, making solar energy even more competitive than it already is.
The electric vehicle market is still struggling to kick-off. It’s a bit the chicken-and-egg problem. Consumers are held back because of the lack of charging points, companies are not eager to invest in the infrastructure when there is no guarentee it will be used extensively. So that’s the moment governments should help out and that’s exactly what is happening in the UK.
As part of a master plan to get more eletric vehicles (EV’s) on the road, the UK government is investing in a charging network on all major roadways with chargers every 20 miles (32 kilometers). Later this year, a pilot project in wireless charging of electric vehicles will conclude a feasibility study of the technology commissioned by Highways England. If the results are economically viable, the technology will be build out further.
How does this wireless charging work? It’s basically the same technology as used to charge your electric toothbrush or wireless phone charging. Thanks to magnetic induction, an electric current can be induced to charge the vehicle’s batteries when it drives over elektromagnetic plates build into the road. The vehicle can charge its batteries while driving, no need for charging stops anymore. The installation of the elektromagnetic infrastructure is easier than the electrification of a road via overhead cables such as for trams.
The application of induction charging for EV’s is not new. In Gomi in South-Korea for example, two wireless-charged buses ply the train station and Dong-In line. Similar projects exist in Utrecht (the Netherlands) and Torino (Italy). But if the UK decides to build out the technology over its roadway network, we’re talking about a much bigger scale. Exciting times for electric vehicles — and their drivers– ahead!
Header photo by Mark Turnauckas