Driving and flying on solar: dream or reality?
July 08, 2013
Sunny days are increasing here in the Netherlands and everyone enjoys this to the full. How a wonderful effect the sun can have on people’s lives. Not only in terms of a nice tanned skin, but also in terms of energy for transport and electrical appliances. A great renewable energy source! Indeed, two new solar powered products have been in the latest news: a new solar family car and a new solar airplane. Does that sound like fiction or reality?
A team of students, companies and organizations have been working on the first family car driving on solar energy (NRC Handelsblad, Thursday, July 4, 2013). The car will be used for the World Solar Challenge in Australia (in October) and it can go up to 120 km/h. A full battery can go on for 400 kilometers and the car costs 600.000 euro’s. The article says that the Dutch car drives on average 37 km per day. With that average, the new solar family car can provide energy for 10 months. For the other two months extra energy will have to be ‘added’. The car is made from energy efficient materials such as carbon fiber. Therefore, the car is four times lighter than a normal car. Next to this, energy efficient lighting is used and the car is made as convenient as possible for the drivers (NRC Handelsblad, Thursday, July 4, 2013).
However, the question arises when it will be feasible to put this on the market? Ton Backx, dean of electrical engineering TU Eindhoven, argues that within ten years time this would be possible, but with some support of the government it could go faster. Jan Piet van der Meer of AkzoNobel disagrees on this since he argues that with ten square meters of solar panels you only charge 1 kilo watt of 1.3 hp, which is by far not enough to put this model on the market (NRC Handelsblad, Thursday, July 4, 2013). Furthermore, it also costs energy to make these cars. However, when production is done by solar energy – driven machines, this would no longer be a problem.
Good news from the air as well: there is also a new solar plane which landed on Saturday July 6 in New York after a two months travel across the United States. This is the first time such a plane has travelled that far, and even in the dark. Check out a short video about it here (Guardian UK, July 7, 2013). With this I would not know the answer on the question whether this could be interesting for the general public in the near future or not.
However, with these developments in mind, I wonder: wouldn't it be a dream coming true if, in the near future, we have solar road ways (roads existing of solar panels) while family solar cars drive on it from A to B and we have solar planes transporting us around the globe?! We would no longer have to feel bad about driving a car or sitting in an airplane due to the negative environmental effects. Instead, we could enjoy the ride to full extend!