One thing that you don’t hear about much anymore is the use of solar cells to power vehicles. Which is somewhat odd, given that the sun burns hydrogen, and hydrogen is the so-called “end-game” for automotive fuels. . . .
Certainly, photovoltaics have their limitations, especially when the sun goes behind a cloud or for several months running in places ranging from Alaska to Detroit (in winter).
But that said, there are also plenty of places where there is a considerable amount of sun for a considerable amount of time. Like Arizona, for instance.
Solar-powered cars came to mind because the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) announced that it set the Swedish fuel efficiency record during the Shell Eco Marathon with a solar-powered car, the Elba.
The Elba didn’t finish first but fifth.
Still, according to the KTH, the car set a record of 181.5 km/kWh. Translating that to MPGe, that’s 3,801.
Which is a heck of a distance by any measure.
The solar cells for the Elba were produced by a Swedish company, Midsummer (presumably that has something to do with the long summer days in Sweden), which produces production lines for making thin-film solar cells.
Speaking of the CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenium) cells, Alex Witt, Production Manager at Midsummer, said “The only possible solar solution that would integrate in Elba's aerodynamic shape was Midsummer's flexible thin film solar cells on stainless steel, which could easily follow the curved body of the vehicle without cracking. This solution would have been impossible with silicon solar cells as they crack easily.”
Chances are better than good that outside of things like Eco Challenge races we’re not going to see a whole lot of photovoltaic-powered cars, but it is a compelling thought.
While you are probably familiar with origami, the classic art of paper folding that results in things like birds that flap their wings when you pull the tail, or plot devices in one of the Blade Runner films.
Ram Truck chief exterior designer Joe Dehner talks about how they’ve developed the all-new pickup. “We’ve been building trucks for over 100 years,” he says. “Best I could come up with is that this is our 15th-generation truck.”
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.