Solar Highways in China

There’s been a lot of information in the news lately about solar highways and we’re please to report on how one of the trials is going over in China. Solar roads are growing in popularity and we are seeing more trials pop up as the technology improves and becomes cheaper to implement. The myriad uses of solar roads (electric heating strips could melt snow, LEDs could warn drivers of any impending issues up ahead, or the roads could even charge electric vehicles down the track) mean there is a lot of research going on to try and make the tech tenable. Let’s look into it some more! 

Solar Highways in China and worldwide.

Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)
Solar Highways in China (source: YouTube)

We wrote about solar roads in China last year and are pleased to report that we have an update on how the solar panel trial on a major highway in the city of Jinan has gone. The trial was lead by Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation with Pavenergy making the solar panels for Qilu, which is a state-owned company who operates the highway the solar road section is installed on.

The panels are made up of a complex polymer not unlike plastic – which means they have slightly more friction than normal roads – but this can be adjusted during the manufacturing profess to ensure it’s the right surface for cars. According to Today Online, normal asphalt (aka bitumen) roads cost around USD $120 per square metre each 10 years to resurface and repair. The solar road companies Pavenergy and Colas are hoping to reach USD $310 – $460 per square metre to install the solar roads – with around USD $15 of electricity being produced by each square meter of solar road each year. This means they could pay for themselves in comparison with conventional roads over a 15 year period. The problem now is the longevity of the panels – can they withstand big trucks driving over them every hour for 10 years? 

“If it can pass this test, it can fit all conditions,” said Mr Li Wu, the chairman of Shandong Pavenergy. 

Professor Zhang Hongchao, an engineering expert at Tongji University in Shanghai is helping Pavenergy with their research, which they expect to have further information on within the next 6-12 months. 

If you’re interested in reading more about solar roads then try our article about solar roads in Tokyo which are currently being installed for the upcoming Olympics in 2020. Another company rivalling Pavenergy and Qilu is a French company named Colas which has already developed 25 solar roads and solar parking lots in France, Canada and the USA. 

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Solar Train on the rails in Byron Bay

A world first in Byron Bay this week – the world’s first ‘true’ solar train will run on a 3km section of the now disused Casino-Murwillimbah line, linking the Byron Bay town centre with the Elements of Byron resort north-west of Byron. It’ll be delivered within the next week or so. 

Byron Bay Solar Train

Byron Bay Solar Train
Byron Bay Solar Train (source: byronbaytrain.com.au)

Funnily enough, in an apt sign of the times with regards to the shift to renewables Australia is currently experiencing, the Elements of Byron resort is owned by coal businessman Brian Flannery. He also owns the solar train company itself – a not for profit named The Byron Bay Railroad Co. 

Solar panels have been used to power train lights before, but the Byron Bay Railroad Co. say their train will be the first to run purely on solar power. The 100-seat train will also have a diesel motor as a backup. 

It’s currently being sent from Lithgow, the train has had eArche solar panels and battery storage installed. The eArche panels were recently introduced to Australia by Chinese businessman and longtime solar power enthusiast Zhengrong Shi. They’ve been manufactured by his Hong-Kong based company SunMan Energy. 

30kW of PV Solar panels have been installed on the station and storage shed built next to the Elements of Byron resort, and the train itself will feature 6.5kW of the SunMan eArche flexible, lightweight solar panels Shi brought to the market earlier this year. This is important as the flexible panels are able to be adapted to the contour of the train so as not to interfere with its aesthetics. The train will also have 77kWh of Kokam solar batteries installed, and the timetable has been tweaked so they are able to use renewable energy at almost all times.

Nick Lake, from Nickel Energy, who consulted on the project, told RenewEconomy last week that the solar train was chosen due to community resistance to the idea of a diesel train (noise, pollution, etc.)

“There was fair bit of community resistance to the idea of a diesel train,” Lake said. “So we started exploring what the options were. We looked at how much power was needed, noted it was a flat run, and that helped size the electric motors.”

Have a look at their website by clicking here. Have you been on the Byron Bay Solar Train? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear about it! 

The Byron Bay Solar Train in action
The Byron Bay Solar Train in action (source: byronbaytrain.com.au)

 

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Audi solar roof on electric cars.

Automobile giant Audi are partnering with a Chinese solar panel manufacturer (AltaDevices, a subsidiary of Hanergy) to offer thin, flexible solar panels to a panoramic car roof. The Audi Solar roof will be used to power various in-car amenities like air conditioning or seat heaters. Just speculation on our part but there’s maybe even space for a second energy storage in the car to power other things like USB – it wouldn’t have enough draw to actually start the car but it’s an amazing step in the right direction!

Car Solar History

We have already seen cars with solar panels as far back as 1991 with the Mazda 929 – and the Prius has been including solar panels for years, with the 2017 Japanese and European versions of the Prius Prime (formerly the Prius PlugIn) also directly powering the car and boosting fuel efficiency by up to 10%. Electrek.co note that “Theoretically, your Prius Prime could fill itself up with only the sun at the airport parking lot on a 10 day trip.”

Audi Solar

Audi Solar Car Roof E-Tron
Audi Solar Roof – e-tron Sportback concept, 2017 Shanghai auto show (source: motorauthority.com)

According to CarAdvice, Audi are hoping for the first prototypes of their solar powered car to be on the road by the end of this year. It the tech does what they hope it will they’ll include their car solar panels in future electric vehicles, with later versions even able to charge the car’s main battery.

The cells are being manufactured in California by Alta Devices, who are an American subsidiary of Hanergy, a Chinese PV solar specialist. According to the Alta Devices website, they procude the “thinnest, lightest, and most flexible solar technology on the market”. It’s 110 um thick, weighs under 200 mg, and is flexible enough to fit around a 40 mm cylinder.

Click below to take a look at a video showing off Alta Devices’ flexible solar panel technology – can’t wait to see how this works for Audi solar cars and what other application they have in the coming months.

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