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  • MAREN: An overwhelming majority

  • of the world's estimated 1.4 billion vehicles

  • run on fossil fuels,

  • releasing a whole bunch of pollutants.

  • Can you believe that a typical car

  • emits roughly 4.6 metric tons of CO2 every year?

  • Fortunately, momentum to take gas vehicles off the road

  • is building around the world

  • with many countries planning to phase out

  • fossil fuel powered vehicles in the coming years.

  • And at the forefront of this shift

  • towards alternatively powered vehicles

  • are the teams competing in the World Solar Challenge.

  • By now, we know all about the sun and the technology

  • like the batteries, solar cells and aerodynamic structures

  • that are being used to harness the sun's power.

  • We even understand the mechanics

  • of how to power a solar car.

  • And don't worry, if you're fuzzy on the details here,

  • then you can go watch our previous videos

  • in this Learning Playlist

  • where we talk about all of that stuff.

  • So, now, let's explore what's it gonna take

  • to power all of our cars using the sun.

  • It all comes down to pretty much one thing.

  • The amount of solar power

  • that a car is able to generate

  • compared to the amount of power it uses up.

  • Electric cars, gas powered cars,

  • self-driving cars, you name it,

  • have pretty big power demands.

  • So while incorporating solar technology

  • into lightweight vehicles

  • like e-bikes and drones is relatively easy,

  • the same can't be said for larger vehicles like cars

  • which can easily weigh at least 2,000 kilograms

  • and need to be able to maintain

  • constant power at high speeds.

  • Plus, most commercial cars today are also outfitted

  • with power draining AC units,

  • radio systems and complex computer circuits.

  • This poses a bit of a problem for photovoltaic systems,

  • which as we've learned in previous episodes,

  • are by their very nature only as powerful

  • as the amount of photons they're able to absorb.

  • The more photons a solar cell absorbs into its material,

  • the more electricity can be produced.

  • And basically, cars require a lot of energy to work.

  • And if we want to power them with solar energy,

  • there's not a whole lot of surface area to work with.

  • And then there's the fact that the solar cells we use

  • out in the real world today

  • don't often reach their already limited efficiency.

  • Right now, the best research-grade solar cells

  • are still at, like, 30%.

  • And that's in a lab environment,

  • like, a teeny tiny solar cell.

  • MAREN: With that said, we've certainly made huge strides

  • in improving the conversion rate of solar cells.

  • And work is underway to push their potential even further,

  • whether that's through finding new materials configurations,

  • developing more sophisticated anti-reflective coatings

  • to let the cells capture more light,

  • or even figuring out how to manipulate light waves

  • so that they're easier for the cells to absorb.

  • But until solar cells reach their maximum efficiency

  • and then some,

  • designing solar vehicles to be as aerodynamic

  • lightweight and efficient as possible

  • will remain the primary focus.

  • So, while powering a car on sunlight alone

  • does remain a challenge,

  • it's certainly not impossible,

  • because solar cars are a reality right now.

  • I've been given a pretty unique opportunity

  • to ride in a solar car

  • while it is going around the figure eight track.

  • This is the Minnesota team. They've drafted me.

  • And who's spot am I taking?

  • MAN: Uh, you're taking Chris' spot around here.

  • -DEREK: Chris? -MAN: Yeah.

  • -[CHUCKLES] -That's okay.

  • Is there something I should know?

  • -You'll figure it out. -[ALL LAUGHING]

  • DEREK: The Eos II is a two-door, two-seater,

  • so kinda like a concept solar coop.

  • Man, this is intense. [CHUCKLES]

  • WOMAN: All right, solar car to Ricky. Am I clear to start?

  • DEREK: Keep in mind that the Eos II is a concept car.

  • Clearly, it's not quite ready for production.

  • But the ride is surprisingly smooth,

  • though very loud.

  • -Now I'm feeling the speed. -WOMAN: Yep.

  • And before you know it...

  • There we go. That was the end of it.

  • -That's it? -That was the official rounds.

  • -Wow! -I know.

  • That was easy. [CHUCKLES]

  • That was very nicely done.

  • Hurray!

  • While I wasn't able to fly over to Australia

  • to ride around in a solar cruiser, unfortunately,

  • I did get the chance to speak

  • with a few Stanford Solar team members

  • about whether they see solar cars

  • taking off beyond the race track.

  • Yeah, I think that there's a chance

  • that solar technology could make its way

  • into mainstream automobiles.

  • There's always the chance that, you know,

  • some company comes out with a great innovation

  • that really pushes the industry forward.

  • There are definitely limitations

  • especially with the efficiency of solar powered cells

  • and how much energy it takes to actually run a car.

  • But if you make your car aerodynamic,

  • and you make your car light,

  • and you make your array really good,

  • then you're gonna be hard to beat.

  • If there's one thing that I hope for,

  • with solar cars specifically,

  • I really hope that it makes more people excited

  • about working on these new sources

  • for renewable and sustainable energy.

  • MAREN: But solar cars aren't just

  • at the Stanford Solar Car team's garage,

  • or racing across the Outback at the World Solar Challenge.

  • We've actually got a little known

  • but rapidly growing solar vehicle commercial market.

  • Startups like Sono Motors and Lightyear

  • are going all-in on solar.

  • ARJO: And what excites me the most

  • about making commercial solar cars

  • is showing to the world

  • that we can be much more efficient

  • with the energy that we have available

  • without having to compromise

  • on the convenience you get every day.

  • You improve the aerodynamics a bit,

  • you improve the weight a bit,

  • you increase the solar panel array a bit,

  • you increase the efficiency of the solar panel a bit,

  • and then combining all of that,

  • you basically match energy consumption and energy yield.

  • We're not 100% there yet, but we're getting pretty close.

  • The closer you get,

  • the more practical the car becomes to use every day.

  • MAREN: Established companies like Hyundai and Toyota

  • are also developing ways

  • to incorporate solar panels into their cars.

  • Albeit mainly as a way

  • to lend cars a few extra miles of range

  • or power some of the auxiliary system.

  • It's a little less ambitious, sure,

  • but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

  • And research teams all over the world

  • are working tirelessly

  • to make the next revolutionary breakthrough

  • in solar panel technology,

  • which could be exactly what our cars need to level up.

  • There's just too much at stake here

  • to let that big beautiful star above our heads go to waste.

  • So, there you have it, folks.

  • That's a wrap for our Light Speed Learning Playlist.

  • I hope you learned a lot

  • and that you enjoyed the ride as much as I did.

  • Now, go outside and get some sun.

MAREN: An overwhelming majority

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B1 solar power energy powered solar panel efficiency

The Future Solar

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/06
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