Honda moves into the solar cell market

Honda’s wholly-owned solar cell subsidiary, Honda Soltec Co., began mass production of solar cells in October 2007. Using thin film made from a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenium instead of silicon, Honda’s next-generation solar cell achieves a 50% reduction in the amount of energy consumed during the manufacturing process compared to what is required to produce conventional crystal silicon solar cells. Whether we will see these cells used in any of Honda’s future transport solutions is unknown.

Honda Soltec Co. building

Other interesting activities being conducted by Honda are:

Source: Honda

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Adelaide’s solar electric bus

The Adelaide City Council’s new electric bus is to be recharged using 100% solar energy. The Tindo, whose name is taken from the Kaurna Aboriginal name for sun, will be used everyday on the Adelaide City Council’s free Adelaide Connector Bus service.

Tindo - Adelaide electric bus

Tindo uses 11 Swiss-made Zebra sodium nickel chloride batteries. These batteries give Tindo a 200km range and are recharged using a unique solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Adelaide Central Bus Station. The $550,000 solar PV system supplied by BP Solar is currently Adelaide’s largest grid-connected system, generating almost 70,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year to offset the total energy required to recharge Tindo’s batteries.

Manufactured by Designline International, the bus can carry up to 42 passengers, with 25 standard seats, two seats especially designed for disabled passengers, and room for 15 standing passengers.

Read the Tindo fact sheet for more technical information.

Source: Adelaide City Council via The Oil Drum

Solartaxi soon to drive across Australia

The Solartaxi isn’t really a taxi. The sign on the roof is an indication to interested persons that they can get a ride in the solar powered car and take part in its journey around the world. The vehicle itself is a small three wheeler that tows a light weight trailer with 6 square metres of solars panels on the top.

Solartaxi in Bali

The Solartaxi team are on a quest to drive around the world powered by nothing more than solar energy. Their aim: at least 50,000 km, 50 countries and 5 continents in less than 15 months. They started in Lucerne, Switzerland on 08 July 2007 and are presently in Bali, Indonesia for the United Nations World Climate Change Conference. Their next stop is Perth from where they plan to drive across Australia.

SolarTaxi route

Solartaxi’s mission is to show people that new technical solutions can stop the over-exploitation of fossil fuel resources if people are prepared to move forward from the technologies they grew up with. You can read more about the technology that drives Solartaxi.

Source: Solartaxi via AutoblogGreen

MDI air powered car to be produced in Melbourne!?

Great news to start off the week. According to The Age the MDI air powered car is destined to be manufactured in Melbourne. While details are limited at this stage the press release certainly indicates a major investment in Australia by IT MDI – Energy. You certainly can’t criticise them for thinking too small.

At a week long series of presentations in Melbourne the Australian IT MDI – Energy Team successfully showcased the revolutionary MDI air engine and the IT MDI technology portfolio, products, and manufacturing process.

MDI air engine

The highlight of these events was a preview of the 100% Solar & Sustainable IT MDI – Energy Initiative. This is a 5-year, AU$1.5 billion implementation programme that aims to usher a smooth transition to 100% solar based and fully sustainable infrastructures for power generation, transport and communications for the whole of Australia.

Dr Arnoux, Managing Director of IT MDI – Energy, had the following to say:

This Initiative is entirely demand driven and based on competitively priced consumer products and services. We are used to think of ‘green’ being more expensive and cumbersome. With the IT MDI Technology, ‘green’ cost less, is easy and fun. This makes a rapid transition to 100% sustainable and enhanced lifestyles possible.

Over 10 years we aim to reduce car emissions in Australia by 20% and emissions from power generation by 80%.

With the technology portfolio IT MDI – Energy is obviously planning to introduce a holistic solution that goes far beyond the manufacture and sale of their air powered cars. The press release doesn’t expand on the introduction of the cars. The following from the IT MDI – Energy web site provides further insight:

The first demonstration MDI car is scheduled to arrive in Australia in early 2008. Models running on about 2 litres of fuel per 100/km and compliant with stringent Australasian and European safety and performance standards are being prepared for release. In later models, consumption is planned to decline to 1 litre of petrol equivalent per 100 km, or less, through direct and indirect solar energy harvesting.

Update (08 Mar 08): See Air Car confusion

Source: IT MDI – Energy via The Age

Home made solar scooter

Don Dunklee has applied some ingenuity and come up with a way to charge his electric scooter using solar panels. The best part is that he’s put the instructions on how to build your own solar scooter on the web for all to see and use.

Solar powered scooter

The solar panels fold in for driving, and out for charging.  Don rides the scooter 5 miles to work each day, and can fold the panels out for charging the battery while parked at work.

World Solar Challenge 2007

Now that entries have closed it has been revealed that 46 teams from 21 countries have signed up to start the World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide in October this year.

2007 World Solar Challenge route

The Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands won the biennial solar car race 2001, 2003 and 2005 and is the favourite to take out its fourth victory this year.

In 2005 the winning car, Nuon Solar Team’s Nuna 3 completed the journey with an average speed in excess of 100 km/h. In that race the top five teams were handicapped by the 110 km/h speed limit throughout the State of South Australia so the 2007 race is being held before the open speed limit in the Northern Territory is restricted.

The the Nuon Solar Team will enter the Nuna 4 in this year’s 3010km race.

Students set a new solar powered record

Students from the University of New South Wales have set a new record time for the crossing of Australia using nothing but solar energy. The drive from Perth to Sydney in the Sunswift 3 eclipsed the previous record of eight and a half days, set in 1994, by 3 days.

It doesn’t present a practical alternative in the next five to 10 years but it shows that a group of students can drive across Australia with no fuel, then there probably is better alternatives for us to consider as a nation on where we go with our future transport.