The little car that couldn’t, part II

If you haven’t read The little car that couldn’t, part I, check it out first.

Okay, now I know they’re not trying.

The Reuters article has been updated with some news facts. Among them is this:

Kentaro Endo, a director at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry who specialises in renewable energy, said the application of solar energy was severely limited in vehicles.

“Even if you laid solar panels out on the entire roof of a house, you only generate enough energy to run two hair dryers,” he said.

“It’s an interesting idea, but it would be very difficult to power a whole car, even with technological advances.”

I agree that it would be difficult to power the car entirely with solar panels, and have a significant range. The example he gives is a poor one, however.

Hair dryers use a fricking lot of power. The quick search on Google revealed a large number of hair dryers in the 1300-2000 Watt range with most using between 1500 and 1875 Watts. I’m not sure where these 2000 Watt hair dryers are designed to be used because a 120 volt, 15 Amp circuit can deliver no more than 1800 Watts.

Let’s assume a conservative 1500 Watts per hair dryer. If this solar panel roof can indeed deliver 3000 Watts, Mr. Endo is seriously downplaying its significance. There are very few items in your house that use more an a few hundred Watts. The single largest consumer of electricity I have in my place is the air-conditioner. It draws 720 Watts. My refrigerator uses 170 Watts. Everything else in the place combined uses significantly less than the air-conditioner alone.

I don’t live in a house, but if I had a solar array that delivered 3000 Watts and the means to store the electricity that isn’t used immediately, I could go entirely off the electrical grid, assuming no storage or conversion losses. Still, Kentaro Endo, renewable energy expert, seems to have carefully chosen his example to make the situation seem far more dire than it really is.

I can’t fault his logic about using solar panels alone to power cars though. Relying on my favourite converter to do the work for me, I’m quite surprised to learn that 3000 Watts is equivalent to slightly more than 4 horsepower. Cars use surprisingly little power when cruising at speed, but a total of 4 horsepower is going to require a painfully long time to acheive cruising speed! And that’s ignoring the fact that the Solar Electrical Vehicles solar panel kit delivers 215 Watts, not 3000. That said, 215 Watts over the course of the day stored in a battery is certainly capable of more than just helping to power the air-conditioning, as the Solar Electrical Vehicles solar panel kit clearly demonstrates.

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