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Roof-Mounted Solar Panels the Way Forward on EVs?

By Matthew Askari | March 28, 2012
A couple of months ago, the Automotive.com staff got to zip around in a 2012 Chevy Volt for a week. To be clear, the Volt is not a purely electric vehicle; it's closer to being a plug-in hybrid; Chevy will tell you it's an extended-range electric vehicle, which is sort of splitting hairs. Anyhow, the gasoline engine is half the appeal of the Volt. Drivers of pure electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i Miev, have to fuss with long charge times, and there's always a concern of being in range of somewhere to plug-in. Despite Southern California commutes, our staff managed to use a total of only 2 gallons of gas Monday through Friday during commutes, and eventually more on longer weekend drives. Yet there was still the fuss of plugging in the charger constantly, the wrapping, un-wrapping, and storing the cord, and although it all took but 30 seconds each time, it still wasn't as easy as just getting in and going. Wireless charging, which reportedly will be the next stage, doesn't exactly put us at ease, either. Things are gradually changing however. Yesterday we reported that California will be receiving 10,000 new EV plug-in stations, along with 200 fast-charging public stations, as part of a recent settlement with an energy company.  In addition to more places to plug-in, batteries and charging times are ever-improving. Yet there's still some effort involved, not to mention a controversial carbon-footprint using all that electricity, which is often generated using coal. But that too may be changing, according to a recent report. Automakers are looking into roof-mounted solar panels, which would allow a car to charge anywhere, without having to plug anything in. These would obviously fare better in sunny climates, but some panels are being improved to harness and generate energy even when parked in shady areas. Ford is teaming up with SunPower, to become the first automaker to market the "carbon free solar power charging system." While Ford appears to be disregarding the production of the panels themselves, and the eventual disposal afterwards, we have to admit the idea is intriguing. In vast swaths of the United States, this technology would offer drivers a cleaner, easier way to get around. Could roof-mounted solar panels be the way for commuters of the future? Source: TG Daily
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