Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Building A Solar-Powered Car?

If water as a green energy source can be used to power a car, as we discussed in Monday's post, why don’t we do the same for solar power which has been around much longer?

Almost all cars are still powered by gas. But with the volatility of crude oil prices and because it is not a renewable resource, something must be done before it is too late. Given that solar energy, a green energy source, can be used to power entire communities, why not do this on a small scale by using the same principles to build your own car?

A modern solar cell
A modern solar cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
To make this work, you'll need lot of things but the two most important are the solar array and the batteries.

The solar array is vital because this is what’s used to collect the sun’s rays and convert them into electrical energy. There are two types to choose from in the market - namely the prefabricated type and the individual kind which you set up yourself.

If you are looking for branded parts, check out either Siemens or ASE Americas that sell terrestrial grade cells and space grade cells. The lower end model, which can still produce a significant amount of power, is the terrestrial grade version.

Proper wiring must be done to make sure that if one of the panels is not working, your vehicle will still move. Even if the voltage of the solar array doesn't exactly match the system voltage of your motor, in most cases it should still run.

We mentioned earlier that the battery is also important because this is where the solar energy will be stored. Your options for this are lead acid, lithium-ion or nickel-cadmium. Just how many you need to buy will depend on your motor’s voltage. 

When you finally have these two components, these will now have to be connected to the motor. And so that you know how much juice is left in your batteries, you will also need to install instrumentation similar to the heads up display console on regular cars which tells you your speed, mileage and gas.

Australia hosts the World Solar Challenge wher...
Australia hosts the World Solar Challenge where solar cars like the Nuna3 race through a km (0 mi) course from Darwin to Adelaide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interestingly enough, the only commercially available cars that use solar energy so far are the ones used in long distance races, for example, in Australia. To help people realize that renewable energy is really the key to the future, the big automakers should try tapping this technology instead of relying of still relying on gasoline.

Apart from solar energy as a green energy source to power your car, biodiesel is another alternative. This is a combination of alcohol like methanol and a chemical process that separates glycerine and methyl esters (biodiesel) from fats or vegetable oils. This can also be done using corn and sugarcane.

Not only are these renewable, but they don't release the same pollution into the atmosphere that a gasoline engine does. This means you do not release harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide into the air which causes damage to the environment. So even if you can’t build a solar powered car, at least consider a different fuel alternative.

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