New York gets it’s first solar electric vehicle charging station January 7, 2010Posted by oktyabr in architecture, consumer, energy, green, other cool stuff, technology, vehicles, visionary.
One of my favorite “green” blogs, Inhabitat , posted an article about New York getting it’s first solar electric vehicle charging station. I’ve seen electric cars before and even ones that charged off of solar but this particular package suggests what’s right on so many different levels that I just had to post about it here too. Now just imagine what might be possible to build on this concept:
An “off the grid” all electric car, like the one in the article, is certainly very “green” to operate. 95mph top speed, roughly 100 miles of range and 3 hours to recharge with zero emissions. Drive the car to work in the morning and the solar panel on the roof uses the rays of the sun to recharge the storage batteries stored inside the container so it’s all ready to go to recharge your car when you park it again at night. Recycled shipping containers also stand out in this design, there are probably millions of these things stacked up in port cities around the world… why? Because it’s cheaper for a shipper to buy new ones than to put empty ones back on a ship and carry them back to their point of origin. But I’ll do a separate article on containers, I promise! For now just understand that recycling these things is a potential gold or perhaps “green” mine. So what would I do different?
Imagine building a new home in some rural area BUT you haven’t built a garage as part of the plan! Instead you drive down to the dealership and order your new car, but this time with the “Deluxe Package”. A truck shows up a day or two later and unloads one of these recycled shipping containers on your construction site. Careful planning will have to go into the best place to put it because once it’s “installed” the container, your new garage, will be wired directly into the electrical main of your house and the included solar panels will be errected into their permanent position. Of course the outside of the container can be sided, painted or trimmed to fit more into the decor of your home or be left “as is”, maybe if you are just renting/leasing (either the home OR the car+garage) for awhile?
You open the container’s doors, the doors to your new garage, and admire the glossy finish on your new electric hybrid. Woah! The article above says the car in it is FULL electric, what’s up with the hybrid? Simple! There are many reasons why a hybrid might still make a better choice than a full electric… For one having a vehicle that can run on electricity AND liquid fuel means that on those occasions when it’s 100 mile range isn’t quite enough the car’s computer will automatically switch the power system over to the fuel side of things and a small, efficient motor, gas or diesel (or perhaps even a fuel cell stack sans generator), will drive a generator to supply power to the electric motor and/or recharge the batteries. This means that while 100 mile electric range might be fine for most of your day to day driving you can still exceed that and go anywhere you can still buy liquid fuel, just as if you were driving a conventional car.
Secondly, suppose it’s winter time, and you are getting record snow fall. The sun hasn’t shown in a week! Liquid fuel may be the only thing you can go on when there is no sunshine to be had. A smart design would also go against the “off the grid” strategy purposed in the article because you want to be able to recharge the batteries for your car even when the sun isn’t shining. Yes, you’ll have a higher electric bill during that week of no sunshine but you can still drive your car on it’s batteries if you want to, which are being recharged with the same electricity that the power company feeds to your house. But wait, imagine it’s been snowing for a week and finally it’s too much. Downed power lines or a brown out and suddenly your whole house is “off the grid”! What do you do now? Huddle up with some extra blankets and some candles for light? No, you just make sure your car’s exhaust is being vented to the outside (unless it has a fuel cell stack, then it doesn’t matter), plug it in to the batteries which are in turn plugged into the power main of the house, remember? You flip a switch that puts the entire system into “Emergency Generator” mode and the liquid fuel powered generator in your car feeds power back into the house so you at least have lights and some heat.
This whole idea is exstensible too… You could rent/lease/buy more or fewer of these cars, each with their own “garage” and solar charged batteries as your household size or particular needs change over time. Optionally, bigger battery banks could also become an electrical storage system not only for your car(s) but for your entire home.
Improvements in solar power cells will one day soon bring the effeciency/cost ratio down to where your entire home may one day run primarily on a modular solar-battery design, relying on “the grid” only for those times you need power and the sun hasn’t been shining. Battery technology improvements, like the new Vanadium technology could mean much more useful charge and discharge capacity, perhaps helping to double, triple or even quadrupal that 100 mile range with the same size battery storage compartment! These two technologies combined will hopefully be the first step in the direction of renewable, sustainable, decentralized power generation that can be scaled up from a single vehicle or home to entire towns and cities. For frosting on the cake realize that tax incentives and rebates for solar and sustainable power construction in some states can add up to 50% or more of your of your initial investment! Even if you rent/lease such a system these sorts of incentives should make it possible for the retailer to offer them at a more affordable rate.
I really, really want to go into more detail on what I think is possible with this power generation scheme I’ve mentioned but it really deserves a post all of it’s own so I’ll leave you with this thought on the subject… Right now there are states (in the United States), and probably other parts of the world as well, where you can watch your power meter (you know, the one the meter guy comes to read each month?) spin backwards and the power company will credit you that power so you can use it later for free, in essence using the power company as a huge power storage system! In some places, instead of energy credit they will actually send you a check instead of a bill! Go one step further and it becomes possible to imagine that if you live in a place with plenty of sunshine you get to drive your car for free, power your home for free, and the extra power you are generating can be used to pay for both.
“Green” isn’t just good for the enviromenment, it might be good for your wallet too!