February 22, 2010

U.Va. uses solar panels to power electric car



The University of Virginia (U.Va.) students who converted a Honda to run on electricity will now try to partly power it with solar energy.

Students in a mechanical engineering class converted the 1994 Accord to run on electricity last year. Now, they are working with U.Va. facilities management to install photovoltaic panels near its parking space to generate electricity to offset some of what the car consumes.

The panels were installed this week atop a bus kiosk at the Emmet/Ivy Garage and will feed electricity to the garage. The car, which will be used by the department of parking and transportation, will be berthed and recharged at the garage.

"The solar-generated electricity will be part of the power supply for the garage," said Cheryl Gomez, director of utilities for the university. "And we will meter it. Assuming roughly 1,100 hours of sunlight per year, this should yield about 1,320 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year."

The car, which can travel about 120 miles between charges, will probably consume about 3,100 kilowatts of electricity if the car is driven about 5,600 miles per year, Gomez said. The panels will offset about 43 percent of the car's energy use.

Six 200-watt photovoltaic cells, measuring about three feet by five feet each and weighing a total of 240 pounds, were paid for through donations and installed by facilities management employees. These panels, which are guaranteed for 25 years, should reduce the U.Va.'s carbon footprint by about 0.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, Gomez said.

Approximately 30 students were involved with the project, which has been dubbed "Ride Forward."

 

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