Solar-Power Still Trailing ICE

David C. Holzman
by David C. Holzman
solar power still trailing ice

The “Solar Taxi” has arrived in Philadelphia a year, two months and 27k miles after it left Switzerland. A substitute high school teacher from Lucerne named Louis Palmer built the contraption, with help from four universities. The three-wheeled cluchtless, gearless gizmo weighs 1,000 lbs, including 500 lbs of sodium-nickel-ceramic Zebra batteries, manufactured by MES DEA in Stabio, Switzerland. The latter give the car and its 500 lb trailer toting 6 square meters of PVs a range of nearly 200 miles at night. Top speed is an electronically limited 55 mph at 1800 rpm. The 20 hp motor pulled the car up the Rockies at 40 mph. Though billed as 100% solar, Palmer tells TTAC the trailer produces half the car’s energy, the “other half” produced by solar cells on a collaborator’s rooftop in Switzerland that feeds the grid with power equivalent to the supplement the car requires from the grid. In any case, the car’s top speed sinks to 10-15 mph when powered by direct sunshine alone. But Palmer’s goal is to show the world that solar-powered automotive transportation is feasible. He says that $5,000 worth of rooftop solar cells in the US Mid-Atlantic could provide enough electricity for 10,000 miles/year.

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  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Sep 09, 2008

    His point in doing this is really that one could run a car on the amount of energy that falls on 5k$ worth of cells that would fit on a rooftop. Of course, it would have to be a relatively light car. . .

  • Netrun Netrun on Sep 09, 2008

    Why not just use it to power the accessories? Or, replace the 12V battery with something that can store more energy, upgrade to 40V (or whatever they use) and "plug in" to either a solar grid or a regular outlet when convenient. This way your accessories, which use hp to make them work, would work off of stored electrical energy most of the time, saving you gas. For people who drive in hot weather with a/c on all the time would definitely see a mpg improvement. Especially if you've switched to a small I-4.

  • Billc83 Billc83 on Sep 09, 2008

    Good to see someone at least tinkering with alternative fuel sources. Once it became more reliable, the internal combustion engine took the reigns of the flegling automotive industry and we rarely looked back. I don't give a damn about global warming, but I do want to give Big Oil the Big Middle Finger. Personally, I am anxiously awaiting the day I can head off and buy a reasonably priced electric car that doesn't fall under the category of NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, limited to 35 mph). Once that happens, I'll be first in line. F**k it, I'm buying a steam powered car!

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Sep 09, 2008

    Now all he has to do is get the government to let someone manufacture cars that don't meet the standards for crashworthiness. Why is it a surprise to anyone how many things are possible when you remove government constraints?