Published on July 18th, 2013 | by Don Lieber
Electric Car Charging Leaps Forward, As Volvo Unveils New Portable Solar Charging Station
One of the most unique electric car charging designs from a major manufacturer was unveiled this week by Volvo. The major car company revealed a new portable electric car charging pavilion that fits in the car’s trunk.
The unit consists of a flexible mesh structure held in place by bendable fiber rods. It functions as an actual solar panel ‘pavilion’ over the car — providing shade underneath, for example. But it also is embedded with photovoltaic cells which will absorb energy from both the sun and from indoor light sources, and can then be used to charge the plug-in electric car.
When finished charging, it folds into the trunk. Riders can then head to the next destination with full (solar) capabilities to charge the vehicle again.
“It was important that it be easy deployed, break down, and move around,” said Alvin Huang, founder of SDA design, the Los Angeles-based design firm that designed the unit.
The charger, known as “Pure Tension”, was developed by Synthesis Design + Architecture (SDA), Buro Happold, and Fabric Images. The design recently won an international competition, sponsored by Volvo, designed to promote its V60 plug-in hybrid vehicle.
The charger is scheduled to make its public debut in September, according to SDA, the principal designer of the unit.
The unit is also drawing praise for its striking, futuristic aesthetic design. One auto-industry website called it “amazing.”
However, the design is actually very impractical for most uses and has basically been pitched before. The solar cells that can be used in such an application are very low efficiency and not competitive with conventional solar cells. And they wouldn’t be used the majority of the time in such an application, which makes their payback much worse than conventional solar panels. Plus, there’s a security/thievery risk. Much more practical and cost effective is to have rooftop solar panels and charge from them, or charge at conventional public charging stations. But this could potentially serve a very niche market of offroaders…