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BMW Unveils the Solar Charging Carport of the Future 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the park-and-power dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "The carport hasn't changed much over the years. Made out of wood, aluminum or steel, they are simple structures meant to cover your vehicle from the elements. BMW has just revealed a concept carport that takes these structures into the future. Made out of bamboo and carbon fiber, this concept carport features solar panels that harvest the sun's energy and use it to charge your BMW i-vehicle. "With the solar carport concept we opted for a holistic approach: not only is the vehicle itself sustainable, but so is its energy supply," explained Tom Allemann of BMW Designworks USA. "This is therefore an entirely new generation of carports that allows energy to be produced in a simple and transparent way. It renders the overarching theme of lightweight design both visible and palpable." The entire thing is quite beautiful, and could be the way to make not only charging your electric car sustainable, but also building your carport."
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BMW Unveils the Solar Charging Carport of the Future

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  • by geogob (569250) on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:26AM (#46957163)

    As I am currently looking into buying an electrical car, I was considering doing (almost) exactly this : Installing solar cells on the roof of the house to charge the car. It wouldn't even take that much solar cells; 20 square meters would charge the car in a reasonable amount of time. Free energy, right?

    While considering the idea, a fundamental problem stuck me: Most of the time when the Sun shines, the car isn't parked at home. It is either parked in front of my office or, when I'm not working, I'm driving somewhere else, enjoying the Sun that could have charged my car. The solution to this issue was to add batteries to the concept, in order to store the Suns energy as I am away and transfer this energy back to the car at night when I am home.

    Considering the car has a capacity exceeding 20 kWh, the battery solutions becomes extremely expensive - as expensive as the car itself actually (if not more). Without the battery, it's a nice expensive systems that will produce a lot of power when I don't need it. It's always possible to sell back the excess power to the utilities, but you get a loss let out of it this way and it makes your life quite complicated.

    Forgetting this fundamental limitation, after doing a lot of calculation, it turned out that it would take over 20 years to amortize; and I doubt the battery system would last 20 years under the kind of stress it would be put too (nearly daily full deep cycles). And this is assuming the normal electricity prices. In fact, the charge stations are highly subsidized and your are basically paying the price large industry would pay for electricity. Suddenly your amortization period goes up over 40 years.

    It's not (yet) worth it, although the technology is actually there and ready.

    Conclusion : Power accumulation solution in the 20 - 40 kWh range are too expensive and power is too cheap.

  • Re:How long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Friday May 09, 2014 @04:27AM (#46957171) Homepage

    The point is not to rely on solar for charging exclusively, the point is to add some up-front cost in exchange for a lower running cost. You are spending tends of thousands on the car port, perhaps with a dedicated high speed charger, so you might as well throw in a little more and harvest all that free sunshine too.

  • Re:How long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donaldm (919619) on Friday May 09, 2014 @06:25AM (#46957459)

    It looks to be using 24 panels in a 6x4 configuration.

    'Standard' 250W panels are 40"x65", giving my 20'x22', so 'close enough', especially if you slant it a bit.

    Assuming ideal, that's 6kw. More realistically 3kw in most areas, about 43kwh per day. About 129 miles of electricity at 3 miles per kwh.

    Sounds good on paper, however unless the person who uses this is a night worker the whole array is pretty much next to useless since most day workers would have taken their electric car to work and only return to park under their now non functioning solar car port once the sun has gone down. Of course if we consider the weekend the electric car could be recharged during the day unless the driver has decided to take the car to say a shopping centre. So I think I would be fairly confident to say that with regard to recharging the electric car most of the charging would actually be from the mains.

    Instead of spending money on a car port just to power their car it is more practical to feed the solar power back to the grid and/or powering devices that require power during the day. This is not to say that the car port is a waste of money but like anything that is solar powered some thought is required on the best use of the device.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday May 09, 2014 @06:28AM (#46957467) Homepage

    So hook the solar cells into a syncing inverter and drive your electricity meter backwards. Use the power company as your battery.

  • Re:How long? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:55AM (#46957775) Homepage Journal

    Sounds good on paper, however unless the person who uses this is a night worker the whole array is pretty much next to useless since most day workers would have taken their electric car to work and only return to park under their now non functioning solar car port once the sun has gone down.

    Dingdingdingdingding!

    So I think I would be fairly confident to say that with regard to recharging the electric car most of the charging would actually be from the mains.

    Well, let's cover the office and the shopping center and the parking garage with solar panels. At least some of it could come from the sky at the point of use. And if you're going to run a lot of capacity there anyway so that cars which are there can be charged, it's a good place to site the panels even when they're not being used locally.

  • by necro81 (917438) on Friday May 09, 2014 @07:58AM (#46957793) Journal
    I spent a few months living in Arizona some years back. I lived in an apartment complex where most of the space between the buildings was the carpark. The most coveted spaces were the ones that had a sort of awning or overhang, so that the car was out of direct sunlight. It made a huge difference in how hot the car got.

    As an engineer, seeing this vast swath of paved-over space (more than an acre all told), some of which was itself covered with structures specifically intended to block the sun, I thought to myself: why in the hell don't they just cover the entire carpark, and cover it with solar panels, to boot? The complex could advertise itself as having all-shaded parking (and commensurate higher rent) and reduce its net electricity consumption. In sunny Arizona, such a project could have paid for itself in less than a decade; today, the economics are even more favorable.

    My question is: why isn't this (grid-tied, solar panel-shaded parking lots) done by every piece of commercial real estate in sunny climes? You make greater use of a resource (land area), the tenants' cars end up cooler (you can charge higher rent for that), it has a more or less guaranteed return in a reasonable time span, and reduces operating expenses (lowered electric bills). See, for instance, the western parking lot at the Googleplex headquarters [google.com]. Why isn't this done everywhere?
  • Re:How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday May 09, 2014 @08:12AM (#46957891)

    This thing would be advantageous if it would keep the car in the shade during summer, and clear of snow in the winter. A garage would be better, though.

    This thing would only be advantageous if your electric car spent its daylight hours at your house.

    In other words, largely unused. Most of us drive to work in the daytime, drive home in the evening, and our car stays home (with us) overnight. Not as much sunlight as you might expect at night....

  • Re:How long? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday May 09, 2014 @08:44AM (#46958091)

    That's assuming it's always sunny and that anyone that owned a BMW would be ok with having a carport. You need to remember, people are still buying electric cars because they're currently fashionable. Carports are not fashionable and I can't see them becoming so anytime soon.

    I do like that they're using Bamboo however. People really need to start utilizing Bamboo in the west. It's an amazing material and more "green" than most of the fads we like to pretend are green over here.

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