Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Solar Insights

Solar power is coming along.  This afternoon I drove to Grahamstwon and photographed a Japanese made solar  vehicle capable of reaching 160km/h.  It uses, literally, space age tech.  The solar panels are 0.3mm thin, literally paper thin.  It's the stuff they use on satellites where space is very limited.  The Solar Challenge this year is a 4100km circuit of South Africa involving 5 teams.  The Japanese are not streets ahead in this, but highways.  Part of their advantage no doubt is the budget to use lithium batteries, whereas the South African teams are using inferior battery tech including petrol and hydrogen hybrids.
In any event when I went to photograph the above vehicle all of the other 4 teams were still on the road, and an hour later had still not arrived. 
In the end I left, drove 20 km on the N2 towards the other vehicles and still did not see them!  Maybe solar power is coming along, but South Africa is a way behind.  Organisers say they expect around 20 teams at the next challenge; hopefully we'll see a continued increase in quality as the quantity of competing teams increase.

Interestingly, the Japanese team were charging the battery for the entire time I was there.  This is in case tomorrow's weather is not sunny.  This afternoon's sunshine then provides the impetus for their journey tomorrow, even if the sun doesn't shine.

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