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Solar Vehicles; Here Comes the Sun

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On: Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 3:48PM | By: Karen Cook

Solar Vehicles; Here Comes the Sun

Police investigators have files in their offices, which are labeled “cold”. Anyone who watches crime dramas knows this. If a case is unable to be solved it sits and waits for new information to be uncovered or new technology to be invented to help find out ‘whodunit”. Why don’t car manufacturers have cold cases? You know, someone who looks at great ideas from the past that were not able to be realized at the time.

One such idea that warrants anther look with modern ideas comes from a man named William G Cobb. He produced the one and only solar powered automobile back in 1955. It used 12 photoelectric cells made of selenium to transform the sun’s energy into power to run a small car engine. It wasn’t a shiny sedan that could carry a family of 4 plus groceries. In fact, it couldn’t be driven at all. It was made of balsa wood and measured a whole 15 inches.

Mr. Cobb worked for General Motors and the “car” was shown at the General Motors Powerama. Also on display were other marvels such as cotton gins, submarines and military equipment. At the time, solar technology was still in its early stages and it was not feasible to make a full size solar automobile. The 12 cells, which powered the model, were only capable of producing 12 horsepower, not enough to move a passenger vehicle. But the idea was there. Why hasn’t someone picked up this cold case (hot case?) and run with it today? I live in Florida and a concept like this could mean I would never have to pay for fuel of any sort ever again. My electric car would always be at full charge.

Back in 2009 Toyota was reported to be secretly working on a totally solar powered vehicle. They had just released the most popular mass produced hybrid vehicle with the Prius. However, they were looking at their first operating loss in 70 years and the funds were available for this kind of research.

I still think it’s a great idea and absolutely possible with current technological advances but I guess if Toyota can’t figure it out nobody can.


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