Green Driving: Combining Composites and Renewable Energy .pdf
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Title: Green Driving: Combining Composites and Renewable Energy
Author: Anthony Carter
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Green Driving: Combining Composites and Renewable Energy
For all the talk of revolutionizing the auto industry by introducing renewable energy sources, we are surprised that so
little progress has been made over the last decade or so. There seems to be so much potential that industry movers and
shakers are either unaware of or just haven't figured out. Let's face it. There's not a lot of talk of combining composites
and renewable energy to power the cars and trucks we drive.
The auto industry has been working extremely hard for more than 20 years to come up with viable alternatives to the
internal combustion engine. They have faced all sorts of challenges just to produce a good hybrid vehicle. But so far,
both battery and fuel cell technology have proved elusive in the pursuit of eliminating fossil fuels for driving.
At the same time, engineering students at a variety of universities have completed multiple proof-of-concept projects
that suggest commercial car companies might be barking up the wrong tree. Take the case of a group of Cal Poly
students who are getting ready to attempt to break the speed record for a solar-powered car.
No Engine, No Storage
Cal Poly students have been working day and night to build an incredible new car that they think they can get up to 65
miles per hour without an engine or any electric storage capacity. They are going to test their car out in Palmdale,
California in June.
Most of the car is made of carbon fiber composites to give it strength without adding unnecessary weight. As for the
car's propulsion, it is quite simple: electric motors are driven by energy collected by solar panels that cover more than
100 square feet of the car's upper surface.
Think about what that means. The car runs completely on solar energy. There is no internal combustion engine. There is
no battery. There is nothing but a set of solar panels that collect sun energy, convert it into electricity, and send it to the
A Great Idea Worth Exploring
To us, what the Cal Poly students have succeeded in building is a great idea worth exploring. We are smart enough to
realize that their car is not suitable for everyday use. But their proof of concept is something to be taken seriously.
We need not worry about carbon fiber prepreg prices or debate over whether to use carbon fiber cloth in a manual
layup as opposed to 3D printing or braiding. All those things can be worked out as we go. What should concern us now is
the fact that it is entirely possible to build a car that runs exclusively on solar power, with no need for storage or a
backup engine. It can be done.
Composites and Renewables Together
Our industry has already proven that composites are a perfect replacement for steel and aluminum. They will be the
future of the automotive industry whether it goes renewable or not. Now we need to find a way to combine composites
with renewable energy in a way that is truly meaningful.
As we work on bigger and better batteries, why not also pursue harnessing solar thermal technology to power a
passenger vehicle? Alongside developing better fuel cells, maybe we can also work out how to build better solar
We are by no means experts in renewable energy. We are experts in composites, and it seems to us that combining
what we do with renewable energy technology is the best way to truly revolutionize the auto industry.