What if you never had to stop to refuel your car ever again? Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
Speaking with the Telegraph, Imperial College Professor Keith Barnham said improvements in solar-panel technology could eliminate the need for gas stations.
Barnham, emeritus professor of physics at the London college, said he and his colleagues are producing solar panels that are three times more efficient than current designs, which he hopes will allow future generations of electric car drivers to charge their cars at home – exclusively.
Recharging electric cars with solar power isn’t a new idea; many owners use rooftop solar panels to provide supplemental electricity for home charging stations. However, if it performs as promised, this new material could turn solar-powered electric cars into the new status quo.
Barnham said the material doesn’t need to be made into the typical rooftop panel. Since it doesn’t need to be positioned at a certain angle, it can be inserted into windows or blinds to absorb energy on a sunny day and become more drivers’ primary source of electricity.
Of course, this technology isn’t quite ready for commercialization and, as Transport Evolved noted, even a solar panel with three-times greater efficiency still isn’t energy-dense enough to recharge an electric car in a reasonable amount of time.
Still, the possibilities are intriguing. The rise of the electric cars has brought with it an implicit assumption that today’s gas stations would be replaced by tomorrow’s public charging stations, but if drivers can access significant quantities of free renewable energy at home, there’ll be less of a need for them.
This would essentially be like eliminating the middleman, but it can only happen if Barnham’s forecast of dramatically-improved solar panels come true. With the material still in testing, and electric still accounting for around 1 percent of new-car sales in the US, though, it will likely be some time before the gas station disappears completely, if it ever does.
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