Transportation Going Solar

May29, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

solar carSolar power continues to expand—especially in the realm of transportation. Here are a couple of the latest headlines and developments in the field!

*SOLAR BY AIR: First Solar-Powered Plane Takes Flight

In Switzerland recently, an experimental solar-powered airplane took its first transcontinental flight. Before the plane could launch on its journey’s first leg to Spain, it was delayed by fog—an illustration of how solar power is more susceptible to the effects of weather changes.

“We can’t fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,” Pilot Andre Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane.

The flight is part of a project that began in 2003 and will cost about $100 million total over ten years of time. In 2010, the Swiss flew an aircraft affixed with 12,000 solar cells nonstop for 26 hours, proving that sunlight could keep the craft in the air through the night. Now, this transcontinental flight is like a dress rehearsal for a round-the-world flight planned for 2014.

*SOLAR BY BOAT: Solar Boat Travels Erie Canal

The Solar Star 23 has traveled over 300 miles using only solar power. With a top covered in photovoltaic panels and a crew of three, the boat began in Buffalo, New York, one week before arriving at the Schenectady Yacht Club, cruising down the Erie Canal.

The boat’s owner Bob Meacham says this watercraft is especially unique because it’s the first of kind designed from the hull up rather than with solar panels added onto an already fuel-powered boat.

Meacham’s boat travels a maximum 10 miles per hour and has eight batteries that store all the energy it’s able to derive from the sun. The test drives are being done to show the vessel’s ability to make longer voyages via solar power—and in six weeks, it goes up for sale at $45,000.

*SOLAR BY CAR: Student to Tour World in Solar Car

A team of ten students is traveling the world by car—solar car. They’ve already reached Australia, the United States and Europe.

“We want to show that it’s possible to drive round the world on solar power,” student and team member Yago Elbrecht said.

Along the trip has seen some success, the car, which relies fully on solar energy, has run into a few snags. Due to cloud conditions that have kept it from properly charging, the batteries are empty. This has led the team to unscrew the panels and set them directly in the sun to store up power—it should take four hours to fully charge.

This solar car is the creation of Bochum University, with the support of the automaker Solarworld. The students’ world tour will last a full year traveling around Australia, the U.S., Europe and Asia.

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