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Hymotion Plug-In Conversion Will Also Use Solar Panels

20 October 2006

Veridianphev
Veridian CEO Angemeer with the Prius (solar module displayed) and smart meter.

Hymotion, a developer of plug-in hybrid technology, announced the two-phased conversion of a Prius into a plug-in hybrid for Veridian Corporation, a large Ontario-based utility company.

Phase one was the basic conversion of the Prius using Hymotion’s battery pack. (Earlier post.) Hymotion is now using A123Systems lithium-ion cells in its pack. The second phase will involve adding solar panels to the roof of the vehicle and to the roof of Veridian headquarters for daytime charging.

Phase two, which begins next month, will be completed by a third Canadian company, Solera Sustainable Energies (a provider of utility-grid-connected solar power solutions in Canada) in partnership with St. Lawrence College and possibly other research institutions.

I think the public is starting to realize that the future of the automotive industry is moving more and more towards being powered by electricity. We want to help demonstrate that sustainable transportation is here today and is not just a thing of the future.

—Ricardo Bazzarella, President of Hymotion

The solar panels have been custom manufactured to suit the available roof space of the Toyota Prius, with the goal of maximizing peak generating capacity and overall electrical energy yield. Three individual solar modules—based on Sunpower A-300 solar cells—will yield a total rated capacity of 240 watts.

The SunPower A-300 solar cell is a 125mm, 20% (minimum) efficiency, high-performance, single crystal silicon solar cell that offers up to 50% more power per square foot than conventional solar cells. The A-300 has the metal contacts needed to collect and conduct electricity on its back surface, thereby eliminating reflective metal contacts on the front of the solar cell and improving solar cell performance.

Michael Angemeer, Veridian’s President and CEO, took possession of the basic converted Prius in September. He drives the car on a daily basis, and reports that he can travel about 55 kilometers (34 miles) on a single battery charge, with just a little gasoline being used for acceleration.

As a leading electricity distributor in Ontario, Veridian and its shareholder communities are very interested in advancing the use of technologies that contribute to sustainable energy use. We believe that the plug-in hybrids have a lot of potential for cars and larger vehicles, and hope that our project will drive local interest and further research and investment in this technology. The vehicle will showcase overnight charging using less expensive off-peak electricity through smart meter technology and solar energy.

—Michael Angemeer

Over the next year, Veridian will be installing smart metering for almost half of its 106,000 customers. This is part of a broader government initiative to install 800,000 smart meters in Ontario by the end of next year and more than 4 million by 2010.

The smart meters will support technologies such as PHEV in addition to demand-shifting technologies such as smart appliances and utility load control. The government anticipates that combining smart meters with utility-driven conservation will allow less investment in new generation sources.

The plug-in hybrid project is being supported in part by the LDC (Local Distribution Company) Tomorrow Fund, a utility industry fund established to finance research projects that advance innovation in Ontario’s electricity distribution sector.

Veridian has a number of hybrid vehicles from GM (Silverado pickup) and Ford (Escape Hybrid) in its fleet and is investigating retrofits of these vehicles as well as optimizing the use of ultra low-sulfur diesel in its truck fleet.

October 20, 2006 in Hybrids, Plug-ins, Solar | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

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Single-crystal PV panels are ludicrously expensive. Would you want to take such a vehicle through a car wash?

With a total rated power of just 240 Watts, an eight-hour charge in bright summer sunlight will yield approx. 2 kWh. Not bad, but for decent circadian range you need to charge your battery pack for 8 hours on a dedicated 110V/15Amp household circuit (~1500W). Ergo, the on-board solar panels will only extend your range by 16%. They won't amortize in a zillion years, plus they add weight to the car.

If you feel solar power should be a part of your personal energy mix, consider a much larger array of cheaper PV cells to charge a stationary battery pack in your home. Combined with energy efficient insulation, lighting etc. and a control system that can arbitrate between battery and grid sources, you will get a bigger bang for your buck. You may also want to look into thermal collectors and/or heat pumps to supply your warm water and contribute toward space heating.

Other than efficient architecture, be on the lookout for absorption chiller units power by solar concentrators if your main problem is air conditioning.

No kidding Ontario would like to reduce the amount of new capacity they will have to build. They're behind the eight ball because of an ill conceived privatization scheme a number of years ago.

Rafael,

I would assume that the solar roof is not intended to be cost effective. It probably is intended as a corporate promotion for the solar panel manufacture and, if they get enough power from the additional panel on the corporate roof, they will be able to say "solar powered car".

It makes good advertising even if it is somewhat disingenuous.

None of the automakers will care about making A/C more efficient until the EPA finalizes their plans to make A/C usage part of the official test for the window sticker ratings. I know they had talked about it for the 2008 rules, but it has yet to be finalized.

I'd be curious to know how much efficiency the panels will gain in the winter. That's one definite advantage to having panels built into any car's roof up here, not to mention motivation for staying single-crystal PV instead of something cheaper.

Battery performance takes a hit in the cold; integrated solar could help keep things warm enough to compensate during the day. As point of reference, our 2003 HCH is ok down to about -20C, but for those days and weeks when it's below -25C, things can get a little hairy - IMA won't start or cuts out until the gas engine is warm enough. Usually five to ten minutes of gas-only driving does the trick.

Has anyone here had a chance to run a plug-in converted hybrid over a full Canadian winter or two yet? Full EV conversions?

Sid, the Prius does indeed have very efficent A/C. First, it has a 3 phase 200 volt compressor. Secondly, they designed the rest of the system carefully to use a very small amount of refrigerant, it's been a while since I read up on that, but I can tell you it works very well.

Those solar panels mean never finding your car with a dead battery, some minimal amount of juice can be produced, just enough to crawl to an outlet, if not a gas station. Also, one can freely use the electrical accessories without worry of not having cranking power. No one should expect the solar panels to pay for themselves, and I doubt they are excessively heavy.

Rafael writes:

With a total rated power of just 240 Watts, an eight-hour charge in bright summer sunlight will yield approx. 2 kWh. Not bad, but for decent circadian range you need to charge your battery pack for 8 hours on a dedicated 110V/15Amp household circuit (~1500W). Ergo, the on-board solar panels will only extend your range by 16%.
The Hymotion L5 kit has a 5 kWh battery (the pdf does not say what the A123Systems-based version carries).  2 kWh/day amounts to 40% of the all-electric range, not 16%; that's significant.  If I had one of those I would literally never need to fill up OR plug in for my usual weekly driving.

So What is the ultimate goal of the plug-in hybrids?
The perception has been fuel independence on a personal and national level. So why are all plug-in hybrids still only using petroleum fuel, with ethanol and biodiesel are available. If Veridian wants to make a car that will show what ultimate fuel independence is with technology that exists now and is being used now, then please explore diesel plug-in hybrids. Biodiesel is clean, renewable, and can support each nations economy.

With triple fold panels (covertible style) one could triple the energy production to 6 Kwh/day while protecting the car hood and booth from the burning sun (while parked outside).

This much sun power could move a Prius about 24 Km every average day. Double the panels efficiency and most everybody could go to work and back on free & clean sun power.

No ICE power generator, no plug, just a 12 KWh battery pack + on-board folding light weight sun panels.

Of course, all oil and power interests will be against it and will try to prove that using sunlight energy is un-American. The average American will believe them and will rip the sun panels off the car roofs and claim the right to drive V-12, 600 HP, 4-ton gas guzzlers.

Insightful comment, Harvey!

The solar PV panel and especially the triple-foldable panels will destroy the car's good look and aerodynamic property, as well as adding needless weight that will significantly degrade the Prius' stellar energy efficiency. The high-efficiency PV panel as cited in the article is very expensive and is not worth the investment, except serving PR purpose here only. Furthermore, the shock and vibration and stress of mounting in the car may shorten the life span of the panel.
It would be far more sensible to mount cheaper solar panels on your house's roof at optimal south-facing angle to get maximum efficiency year round, and charge the car using low-cost night time electricity from the grid.

The "gas-guzzler" will disappear once the shift will be made toward the hydrogen economy. The low-energy density of hydrogen will dictate that all H2-capable vehicles be ultra-efficient. Ditto for BEV's, due to the high cost of battery and heavy weight of the battery pack.

2kWh per day would be about 10 miles per day reduced from commuting gasoline bill. Not too bad.

However in future, I think a nanosolar sheet could be put over the car when parked, like a car cover. Should be cheap enough too, and great surface area. Could be deployed automatically. As stowed when driving, no problem with aero or stonechips.

http://www.nanosolar.com/

"It would be far more sensible to mount cheaper solar panels on your house's roof at optimal south-facing angle to get maximum efficiency year round, and charge the car using low-cost night time electricity from the grid."

Do people still get this in some places? We haven't had off-peak demand rates in years in the east.

Plug in Hybrids with solar charging? A great concept and a start that should be celebrated and given more press. It's technology readily available today; blend with Ethanol or Biodiesel and maybe we can extend our oil supplies out a couple of hundred years instead of 25. Remember plastic and other important products also come from oil....

"It would be far more sensible to mount cheaper solar panels on your house's roof at optimal south-facing angle to get maximum efficiency year round, and charge the car using low-cost night time electricity from the grid."

Do people still get this in some places? We haven't had off-peak demand rates in years in the east.

Posted by: hamerhokie | Oct 23, 2006 11:23:52 AM


Yes, Hamerhokie, demand-based electricity pricing exists. Here in California, it's the customer's decision. I understand that many utilities want to make variable-rate energy pricing mandatory.

Pacific Gas & Electric's flat rate is $0.14/kWh. But if you get a time-of-use (TOU) meter installed, you pay, OR are credited, about $0.36/kWh during peak summer hours. And you pay, or are credited, $0.09/kWh in the off-peak.

I got a TOU meter installed when I put in my solar PV system. Our household uses most of its electricity in the early morning, and after sunset. But the solar power system generates most of its juice during the peak hours. So even though we only generate 93% of the kWh we use over a twelve-month period, I easily cover 100% of my electric bill.

I am convinced that PV could be installed in cars (hybrids) much cheaper than in houses. Once a template for standardized installation has been made in car manufacturing plants, installation should not take more than minutes or seconds.

Think of the advantages:

- Battery and DC power control is already in place and paid for.
- No need for costly installation by skilled craftsmen.
- No extra battery and/or power conversion system in your home.

Main drawbacks:
- May not be able to utilize all the potential of the PV (if the car is unused for days)
- More vulnerable on the roof/hood of a car than on the roof of a house.

Final comment:

Don't use the single most expensive type PV! Better to use a much cheaper kind that is cheap and just be pleased with getting 5-10 km per day for free. Note: 20+ lifetime of PVs is not necessarily feasible - more suited for PV types that wear out after 3-10 years.

Vehical integrated photovoltaics is one of the few places where solar will be competitive. The massive cost of an inverter is avoided, and the battery is part of the package.

Thomas,
An unavoidable situation here is that the PV panel will induce aesthetic and aerodynamic insults to the car. I would not want to be driving around with such an ugly contraption on my car's rooftop.

Power inverter is not expensive, around 10-20% of the total cost of a home PV system. Like John's posting, his house does not use battery storage, and yet, he is able to utilize and get credit for 100% of the electricity of his home PV system. You won't save much money putting PV panels in the car, and the output is far too small to have to put up with the double insults to the car's look and aerodynamic.

10-20% of what $10,000? Inverters arent cheap, and the losses are substantial.

I'm not suggesting that the clunky strap on panel is good, but thin-film body forming integrated photovoltaics will start appearing on hybrid cars soon with real value add.

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