Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cruising on Solar Energy

Cambridge students has found a way to make a solar energy dependent vehicle that could reach speeds of 60 mph using lesser energy than some house-hold appliances (Cambridge). Since the sun the most abundant energy that the earth can have, it is important that we use this energy to substitute for other resources. What the student at Cambridge discovered is a great discovery and can be used to replace petroleum-based vehicle. Having a energy efficient vehicle that produces low carbon is the type of vehicle that we need in the future. Fortunately, the technology has been discovered and the only problem now is how is the car going to be financially available for the public? will this technology be available at low cost and will the public purchase it? The world needs a change and by substituting petro-based vehicle with energy efficient vehicles like the ones at Cambridge is a great way to start.



Emily said...

Every year there are several solar car challenge races, where the top speeds reach 90 km/hr, close to 60 mph. One that is popular is called the World Solar Car Challenge ( which races solar cars across Australia. Most participants are college organizations, but corporations and other institutions also enter the competition.

Rachel said...

I don't think this type of car is ever going to be available or appealing to the public. It's really easy to develop some type of automotive technology in the lab that can get much much higher fuel economy than commercially produced vehicles. The problem is can that technology be made at a reasonable cost and meet the performance requirements needed for consumers. Nobody is going to want to mass produce a car that only holds one passenger, involves incredibly expensive solar panels, and will only run when it's sunny out.

This is sort of an extreme example of a completely unfeasible car for the marketplace, but it's very common to see examples in the mainstream media of some lab or environmental group claiming huge fuel economy gains for some technology and then attacking the automotive industry for not implementing the technology.

Many factors result in new technologies not being implemented including:
1) high cost
2) poor long term durability/reliability
3) unacceptable customer trade offs in areas such as acceleration, safety, drive quality, noise, etc.

The 3rd one is actually a major point and one often neglected in discussions on new automotive technologies. If customers won't buy it because it's unpleasant to drive then it doesn't matter how many high fuel economy vehicles you produce. Cars sitting unsold on a lot don't help the environment.

I'm all for improved fuel economy and I think it's critical for addressing issues of global warming and oil consumption, but I think we need to be realistic about it.

Jacksonite said...

I think you second point is perhaps the most lucid:

Our success is (loosely) defined as economic success and progress, meaning increasing profit and GDP, and this is our approach to solving issues of poverty etc. Thus, we perpetuate economic growth. However this growth is counter to the steady state operation of the world as it already struggles to support the oversized economy of today.

In the greater picture of things, I think the examination of the world of energy has opened up some eyes as to just how unsustainable our way of life is. Think about some interesting facts for just a minute. We have nearly 7 billion people living on the planet yet so many live below global poverty standards. Yet we talk about expanding our resource base to accomodate for population growth. Why? Maybe it's time we start looking at trimming down the population of humans on the planet and the rest of our problems can take care of themselves. I know, I know, how will we ever get people to not procreate? Well, it's actually far simpler than trying to figure out how we will deal with 11 billion people on the planet in 25 years.