By Francis Anthony Govia
With all electric cars becoming a reality, might solar energy be used to power them? So far Nissan has said that it has no plans to include solar technology in the Leaf, but solar energy service stations can be built at rest stops to recharge the Lithium ion battery that run these vehicle. We call these rest stops Solar Energy Recharge Stations for Electric Vehicles (SERSEVS). The idea is to employ solar technology similar to that now used in “green homes” at each SERSEV. A network of SERSEVS can then be built throughout the country to serve all electric vehicles. To further maximize efficiency and reliability, SERSEVS could be tied into the grid systems of Utility Companies, and with net metering, excess current produced by a SERSEV can be returned to the power station for a credit (or cash) depending on the terms agreed to by the Utility Company of the area. SERSEVS offer tremendous value. Once they are established, they decrease our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. Second, they pay for themselves after years of continued use (generating electricity), and the initial cost to build them is recouped. Third, we reap a net benefit from using “clean energy” to meet our transportation needs.
A SERSEV can be modeled after a do-it-yourself-car-wash where you drive up, put in a certain number of coins or a credit car payment, and begin to wash the car yourself. With regard to the all electric vehicle, you drive up to the stall, plug in the vehicle into a Solar electric – also called photovoltaic (PV) – system for a recharge, and sit pat. Hence, the need for fuel attendants is minimized. The actual current used to recharge the lithium ion battery in the electric car will come from current generated from solar panels placed on the rooftops of the SERSEVS, or to maximize the solar electric system’s capacity to generate current at each station, arrays can be mounted on tracking systems that follow the directional path of the sun. Adding tracking arrays is more costly than mounting the solar panels in a fixed position on a rooftop, but they are said to give about a 30% boost in output.
Hard core SERSEVS owners may go a step further by installing solar hot water heaters to heat the water that meet travelers bathroom needs, and if there are restaurants at location, energy star appliances all run by solar energy could be used. A whole host of other energy saving means, such as the use of florescent lights on site, could also be employed.
Of course, Nissan, Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota, car makers that are making electric vehicles, can go a long way towards minimizing our need for large SERSEVS. They can build solar technology into the rooftops of the cars, and feed the current that the “solar panels” harness to the lithium ion battery powering the cars, or they can improve on the battery technology, making it possible for all electric vehicles to travel longer distances without need for a recharge. Third, hotel chains and other travel accommodations may employ the less expensive home type recharge kits in their parking lots (miniSERSEVS); an added convenience for overnight customers to park and recharge their all electric vehicles, such as the Leaf. Notwithstanding, SERSEVS are the way of the future because we all need rest stops when we travel long distances on the road, and it makes sense for us to use solar energy (or geo-thermal resources) to meet our energy needs where it is possible at these sites.