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Published on October 20th, 2009 | by Christopher DeMorro

Electric Car Doubles As a Solar Panel To Power the Energy Grid

October 20th, 2009 by  
 

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I am a firm believer that if electric cars are to gain widespread acceptance, they first need to be proven in America’s congested cities. Most city dwellers usually don’t drive that far, have access to alternate forms of transportation, and likely spend more time on their iPhones than in a car anyway. It is the perfect proving ground for electric cars.

The MINILUX Solar Car concept realizes this, and rather than serving as an expensive paperweight while sitting idle, it can actually return energy back to the grid. It’s pretty neat looking too, aside from those funky wheels.

Designed by Jukka Rautiainen, the MINILUX is, as you guessed, an electric car essentially covered in solar panels. And why not? We’ve had solar panel cars for decades now, they their performance leaves much to be desired. It it designed as a “leisure car” for city dwellers, people who normally get to work via subway but on occasion head for a jaunt outside of town.

The MINILUX would require a public or private two-way energy exchanger to function as intended. When the battery is low, the solar panels and plug-in would recharge the car. But once reaching maximum capacity, the solar cells could then return excess energy back to the grid. Apparently, the car would have an annual driving capacity of 9,000 miles in mild locations like the US east coast, but 16,000+ in sunnier locales like California.

The solar panels are the high-efficiency Gallium Arsenide types, the same used in space applications. These same types of panels are being used to power the Mars Rovers, and can achieve an efficiency of over 40% in laboratory conditions. Of course, that means they are expensive, to the tune of $10,000 per square meter (or so), so this wouldn’t exactly be a “cheap” alternative. The roof of the MINILUX is designed to open up and increase the solar capture area as well, giving it a Satanic Ladybug-like look. It even wears futuristic “airless wheels” to reduce rolling resistance and achieve maximum efficiency.

Now, one obvious problem with such a car is that there isn’t a whole lot of sunshine in the city. Skyscrapers tend to have a shadowing effect, after all. While the idea of recharging on solar power is nice, and returning that power to the city’s grid even nicer, I can’t even begin to estimate how many hundreds of thousands of these cars it would take to power even a small city. But hey, its a new idea, and we can use all the new ideas we can get these days. A zero emission driving experience like this might even make it to the road some day.

Source: Eco Cars | Jukka Rautianinen





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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Verde

    Solar V2G seems to make more sense in the California suburbs, shopping malls, and workplaces where people routinely park their cars outside and can leave them plugged in to the grid. City cars underground, in parking structures, or curbside without access to the grid make for a poor conduit for all those nifty space panels. Maybe we should add plugs on all the parking meters and offer free parking to those that generate power back to the city grid. Still, it seems like a shame not to put such expensive solar panels to work generating electricity all day long, like on the top of a car port rather than on the car.

  • Verde

    Solar V2G seems to make more sense in the California suburbs, shopping malls, and workplaces where people routinely park their cars outside and can leave them plugged in to the grid. City cars underground, in parking structures, or curbside without access to the grid make for a poor conduit for all those nifty space panels. Maybe we should add plugs on all the parking meters and offer free parking to those that generate power back to the city grid. Still, it seems like a shame not to put such expensive solar panels to work generating electricity all day long, like on the top of a car port rather than on the car.

  • russ

    Expensive concept toys and nothing more!

    A car roof is the worst possible place – high investment and no return – a total waste of resources!

    The top of a parking area makes far more sense.

  • russ

    Expensive concept toys and nothing more!

    A car roof is the worst possible place – high investment and no return – a total waste of resources!

    The top of a parking area makes far more sense.

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