Solar-powered cars and tomorrow’s energy!

Solar-carsSolar cars depend on solar array that uses photovoltaic cells, PV cells to convert sunlight to electricity. When sunlight photons strike PV cells, they excite electrons and allow them to flow, creating an electric current. The first solar car was built in 2013! It is with this in view that DrillBytes brings to the fore the rehashed submissions of two journalists in Germany and Australia regarding how fast the world is moving and how fast Nigeria needs to tag along.

In the original article done by Tina Casey for CleanTechnica on February 8th of this year, is the evolution of the solar-powered car. The German solar company, Heliatek has the idea that one day, cars will be covered in solar coatings that will enable you to charge up while scooting down the highway or parked in a sunny spot. Heliatek is presently focusing on replacing your sun roof with an organic solar cell window treatment and the company has just announced a major step forward in the efficiency of its organic solar cells. They are flexible and transparent or semi-transparent just so they can be used over a huge range of applications including buildings and cars.

When organic solar cells or organic photovoltaic cell, OPV first emerged, efficiencies hovered around the 3 percent mark and that’s where Heliatek was at. That sounds pretty dismal but that was about ten years ago. Things improved at a relatively rapid clip and by 2013, Heliatek was reporting a solar conversion efficiency of 12 percent. Heliatek’s new organic solar cell record, just announced last week, clocks in at 13.2 percent as confirmed independently by the solar research center, Fraunhofer CSP. That’s still not up to the company’s end goal of 15 percent but for now, nobody is complaining.

The new Heliatek consists of three layers of organic molecules, each of which has been developed in-house by Heliatek. Each layer specializes in converting green, red or near-infrared light for a total range of 450nm to 950nm which accounts for its relatively high efficiency. The substrate or bottom layer is flexible plastic and the whole thing can be put together using conventional, high volume vacuum deposition and roll-to-roll technology, which accounts for its low cost. Initially, the company’s major pre-occupation was to transform window glass and other building elements into built-in solar power generators so the skip over to power generating sun roofs isn’t that far of a reach.

The company is presently putting out feelers for solar sun roof manufacturing partners. The idea being to increase and stabilize interior comfort without drawing excess electricity from the battery. In effect, it would act as a range extender for electric vehicles as well as a gas saver for gasmobiles or hybrids. The solar equipped sun roof would also enable you to operate electronic equipment while parked without sacrificing battery range or having to idle your car in the case of gasmobiles.

Regarding a whole-body solar coatings for cars, that’s still a long way off. However, research and development on low cost spray-on-solar “paint” is progressing. For this matter, Mercedez-Benz rolled out its vision for the G-Code, a solar painted car.

From Giles Parkinson writing for Reneweconomy in 11th April of the year comes a submission by Origin Energy, one of Australia’s big three utilities that Australia could be a market leader in solar-powered electric vehicles because according to them, the country already has a high penetration of residential solar photovoltaic, PV systems in Queensland and South Australia and the emergence of some battery technologies, there is an exciting opportunity for Australia to be a market leader in electric vehicles powered by solar energy, the company says in a submission to the Climate Change Authority. Nearly one quarter of Australian homes are equipped with rooftop solar, and Australia is seen as the likely first “mass market” for battery storage because of that high solar penetration and because of the country’s high electricity prices, courtesy of its high cost grid.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many of the early adopters of electric vehicles are already charging their electric vehicles with their own rooftop solar, and utilities are already switching controlled loads for electric hot water systems back to the day time from overnight to take advantage of excess solar power.

Utilities say electric vehicles can fill the same function and the uptake of battery storage could help shift that solar-charging into the evening, By using rooftop solar, it addresses criticism that electric cars don’t really reduce emissions in a coal intensive grid. Origin says the potential for electric vehicles is significant, but the take-up so far in Australia has been small with less than 1,000 vehicles sold up to the end of 2014 although, those numbers have since been boosted by the enthusiasm of the up market Tesla model S and more recently, the huge interest in the yet-to-be-delivered model 3.

Back home in Nigeria and with fuel consumption running forty percent short and electricity provision hitting ground level, it is pertinent for the authorities to start looking in the direction of solar energy as an alternative means of getting out of the energy conundrum in the long run while getting prepared to adapt to tomorrow’s energy today.Kayode Adeoye is an energy analyst from Lagos.

  • Martino

    Kayode. I will not demur. We are sleeping as a people and nation. The world waits for only progressives and not dreamers. The shortest cut to energy sufficiency is the migration of residences to Solar with the assistance of flexible and affordable financing. This will diminish the tremendous pressures off of the DISCOS, GENCOS. and govt.

  • emmanuel kalu

    Nigeria government needs to invest in solar energy, and they can do this via the roof top and residential use. Most countries are going away from the massive solar installing that take up huge land area. However the biggest problem is financing of this installation and maintenance. That is where the government can get involved and even generate some revenue.