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BMW Unveils the Solar Charging Carport of the Future

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the park-and-power dept.

Transportation 165

cartechboy (2660665) writes "The carport hasn't changed much over the years. Made out of wood, aluminum or steel, they are simple structures meant to cover your vehicle from the elements. BMW has just revealed a concept carport that takes these structures into the future. Made out of bamboo and carbon fiber, this concept carport features solar panels that harvest the sun's energy and use it to charge your BMW i-vehicle. "With the solar carport concept we opted for a holistic approach: not only is the vehicle itself sustainable, but so is its energy supply," explained Tom Allemann of BMW Designworks USA. "This is therefore an entirely new generation of carports that allows energy to be produced in a simple and transparent way. It renders the overarching theme of lightweight design both visible and palpable." The entire thing is quite beautiful, and could be the way to make not only charging your electric car sustainable, but also building your carport."

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165 comments

Why not solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46956887)

That's the only way electric CAN be better than BP fuel.

Re:Why not solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46956901)

Why not solar?

price for one...

Re:Why not solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957317)

Oh mah cameo molesting
Kaypro a poorah for tea
Solar prestige a gammon
Lantern or turburt pahkey

Solar prestige a gammon
Cool car kyrie kay samone
Hard ring molassus abounding
Common laptop sardine on poor floundin
Just saying solar prestige

Cod he say oh pay a loto
My zeta prestige toupee a floored
Ray indie packo a gammon
Solar prestige a packo can nyord

Re:Why not solar? (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 3 months ago | (#46958595)

If BP cleaned up its messes they'd be out of business.
I, for one, would rather not subsidise their crimes.

yea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46956893)

and what will the other 99.99% of the population be able to afford???

Re:yea (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 3 months ago | (#46956981)

and what will the other 99.99% of the population be able to afford???

A subsidized bus pass that some city with a non-functional, useless public transit system has blackmailed out of a high tech company, out of anger for them running a private workable public transit system and demonstrating that it's the idiots in charge of administering the public transit system who are fault for it being crappy, rather than funding or some other reason?

Re:yea (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46958451)

Google's bus system works better because it runs on a monster budget compared to public transit. Not because it's more clever or efficient. They're just willing to dump healthy sums of money into giving their employees a ride to work, because they have so much money they don't really know what to do with it (which is why they came up with Google X labs way back when - to find new things to do with the money).

Re: yea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957985)

Something better when it comes down in price.

How long? (2)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 3 months ago | (#46956953)

How long would it take to charge your car with a 15ft x 20ft panel? Hours? Days? Weeks?

(Is it just me or does BMW make an incredible effort at failing to design pretty cars?)

Re:How long? (2)

Calinous (985536) | about 3 months ago | (#46957017)

Assuming a slanted roof (oriented to south), you'd get at most 3500W from the device. In an 8-hour day, with some 60% total efficiency, you'd get some 17 kWh. That would be enough for the i3 I think.
      This thing would be advantageous if it would keep the car in the shade during summer, and clear of snow in the winter. A garage would be better, though. And maybe setting the solar panels on the house is either too expensive, impossible, ...

Re:How long? (1)

stiggle (649614) | about 3 months ago | (#46957633)

As a carport is usually classed as a temporary structure it can avoid certain planning regulations which a garage, or mounting the panels on the house roof would come under.

Re:How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957933)

No it doesn't-

Re:How long? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 3 months ago | (#46958179)

Carports are usually supported and anchored in concrete, they usually require a building permit just like a garage. Mounting solar panels on an existing structure does not.

The problem I see here is you will need some type of electrical storage because most people drive their cars to work, etc... during daylight hours when it be charging.

Re:How long? (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 3 months ago | (#46958835)

Depends completely on jurisdiction. Best not to generalize.

Re:How long? (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 3 months ago | (#46958967)

True... with the type weather we get a carport that's not anchored {or just cheaply made} would be torn to shreds each spring. I would love to be able to have something like this but we have already had hail twice this year and high winds are the norm for tornado alley. I have thought that a wind turbine would be nice but I don't think the city ordinances would allow for that.

Re:How long? (4, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#46957891)

This thing would be advantageous if it would keep the car in the shade during summer, and clear of snow in the winter. A garage would be better, though.

This thing would only be advantageous if your electric car spent its daylight hours at your house.

In other words, largely unused. Most of us drive to work in the daytime, drive home in the evening, and our car stays home (with us) overnight. Not as much sunlight as you might expect at night....

Re:How long? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958133)

Several EV vehicle designs are starting to include quick swap batteries, it is conceivable that in the future you may have a battery in your car, and one at home being charged. The one at home could be partially charged by solar during the day and depending on your usage being topped off at night using grid power or charged to full over several days by solar while you run down the battery in your car. Of course that would necessitate a significant reduction in the cost of batteries as current ones run $7-10k, not exactly cost effective at the moment to have $14-20k worth of batteries and an expensive car to replace $3k of fuel a year but as battery prices come down & gas prices go up it may.

Re:How long? (0)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46958487)

Nope battery swapping is stupid, just plagued with problems, and it makes less and less sense every day as battery technology advances. No mainstream EV has a swappable battery. It's a technology that will only be found in race cars.

Battery Swaping (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958979)

Thats odd, because Tesla is apparently building swapping stations & the Model S is quick swap capable. The biggest issue with battery swapping is the proprietary designed used so far by manufacturers & the lack of a network of swapping stations. Neither of which really matter for this specific situation as both batteries would be utilized by the vehicle owner. If battery swapping was so stupid your TV remote would come with integrated, non replaceable batteries.

Re:Battery Swapping (1)

TWX (665546) | about 3 months ago | (#46959097)

Most people won't even check (let alone change) their own oil, or top off their own coolant, maintain tire pressure, or even top off their windshield washer fluid. Hell, most people look at it like it's a major chore to change the starter battery even when it's right up front, held down with one wrench size that fits both the retainer strap and the battery terminal cables.

Unless battery-swap is as simple as swapping batteries in those old full-sized VHS camcorders was then it's a nonstarter.

Re:Battery Swapping (1)

dj245 (732906) | about 3 months ago | (#46959437)

Hell, most people look at it like it's a major chore to change the starter battery even when it's right up front, held down with one wrench size that fits both the retainer strap and the battery terminal cables.

For some people (not me) this kind of maintenance is a safety / reliability issue. In inexperienced hands, starter batteries can be very dangerous. More importantly, if a mistake is made or they get "stuck", someone with only 1 car could be stranded and face embarrassment in having to ask a friend for help, or have to get a tow or a mechanic who does housecalls. They would also not have a car to go to work, buy groceries, etc until the problem is fixed, which is to high a risk for many people.

Re:How long? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 3 months ago | (#46959341)

It's a technology that will only be found in race cars.

They said the same thing about rear vision mirrors in the 1920's.

Re:How long? (1)

Damian J Pound (3635341) | about 3 months ago | (#46958271)

You don't think this thing would have a battery as a buffer? Seems like poor design not to have a place to dump the surplus energy.

Re:How long? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 months ago | (#46958475)

You can sell the electricity back to the grid to offset the charging cost. I know it's a crappy deal because the electricity you sell back is somehow worth much less than the electricity you use, but it can help offset some of the electrical costs.

Re:How long? (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 3 months ago | (#46958875)

I know it's a crappy deal because the electricity you sell back is somehow worth much less than the electricity you use,

It is worth less because someone has to pay for the infrastructure to transmit that electricity around and the backup capacity that would kick in on cloudy days. When you buy electricity you are not just purchasing electron but the all the infrastructure to support making sure you always get what you want. Energy produces sell at a wholesale price which is much lower than the retail price. People who sell to the grid at a lower price than they buy from are just being treated like any other electricity producer.

Re: How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958525)

That's why you buy 2. DUH!

Re:How long? (1)

unrtst (777550) | about 3 months ago | (#46958063)

... A garage would be better, though...

That was my first thought. To me, "carport" is synonymous with "I didn't have enough money for a proper garage". There's nothing wrong with carports but, as soon as you add on the fancy solar panels and all that stuff, this thing is going to be more expensive than a nice garage that includes additional storage, security, protection from the elements, etc etc etc.

Second thought was, how is this something to "unveil"? it's just a typical solar panel install... *on*a*carport*! I'd be amazed if this hasn't been done before, but if it hasn't, it's because people used a garage or the roof of their house.

Re:How long? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 3 months ago | (#46958067)

Assuming a slanted roof (oriented to south), you'd get at most 3500W from the device. In an 8-hour day, with some 60% total efficiency, you'd get some 17 kWh. That would be enough for the i3 I think.

      This thing would be advantageous if it would keep the car in the shade during summer, and clear of snow in the winter. A garage would be better, though. And maybe setting the solar panels on the house is either too expensive, impossible, ...

Of course if you are going to leave your car in the carport all day, it kind of defeats the purpose of having it. Now if this would charge a battery pack during the day that would then be used to either swap in the car (probably not) or charge the car overnight, that might be cost effective. However, because of inefficiencies, it probably wouldn't provide a full charge but would supplement the regular powergrid.

Re:How long? (1, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#46958091)

That's assuming it's always sunny and that anyone that owned a BMW would be ok with having a carport. You need to remember, people are still buying electric cars because they're currently fashionable. Carports are not fashionable and I can't see them becoming so anytime soon.

I do like that they're using Bamboo however. People really need to start utilizing Bamboo in the west. It's an amazing material and more "green" than most of the fads we like to pretend are green over here.

Re:How long? (1)

Vihai (668734) | about 3 months ago | (#46958697)

However, given the cos alpha rule, 15% realistic efficiency, 3 hours equivalent daily radiation, it takes a week minimum (on a cold shiny day) with such non-small plant.

Re:How long? (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957107)

It looks to be using 24 panels in a 6x4 configuration.

'Standard' 250W panels are 40"x65", giving my 20'x22', so 'close enough', especially if you slant it a bit.

Assuming ideal, that's 6kw. More realistically 3kw in most areas, about 43kwh per day. About 129 miles of electricity at 3 miles per kwh.

Math check (4, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957115)

Double checked my math. More like 22 kwh, or 66 miles worth of electricity a day.

Re:Math check (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 3 months ago | (#46957291)

22kWh/day really is your best case scenario.

http://www.nrel.gov/gis/images... [nrel.gov]
6.8kWh/(m.day) in Arizona on a tilted plane gives you about 2500kWh/(m.y)
With a performance ratio of 90% for your PV installation, you can get 2250kWh/(kWp.y) of electricity.
With 3.6kWp (see http://www.solarwatt.de/en/pro... [solarwatt.de] ), you get 8100kWh/y, which is about 22kWh/day.

But this is only in the sunniest place in the US, with a tilted roof and a very good performance ratio.
You'll get close to 10kWh in Europe and many other places in the US.

Re:Math check (2)

Kokuyo (549451) | about 3 months ago | (#46957323)

According to a technical sheet I just googled, this BMW has a 18.8 kWh battery... so those 10 kWh are more than half a "tank".

Considering that solar panels aren't high maintenance (I believe?), one could argue that it's a step in a good direction.

Re:Math check (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#46958811)

Which means that it would take two sunny days in a row, with very little driving in between to "fill up". In practice it would be even more, since this is the amount of energy that you'd get assuming that the solar panels were 100% efficient, so you can probably double that time or worse.

Compare this to spending 5 minutes at a gas station to fill up an empty tank with gasoline.

Re:Math check (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#46957957)

22kWh/day really is your best case scenario.

6.8kWh/(m.day) in Arizona on a tilted plane gives you about 2500kWh/(m.y) With a performance ratio of 90% for your PV installation, you can get 2250kWh/(kWp.y) of electricity.

Your answer is about in the right ballpark, but the method is in error. The chart which shows up to 6.8kWh/m2/day (for SE US) reflects actual solar energy, not electrical. Solar cell conversion efficiency is about 20%, resulting in about 1.36 kWh electric/m2/day. Considering the 6.8 is really that max possible, and there are electrical losses through the inverter, you could expect about 1 kwh-e/m2 If the panel area is 440f2=40m2, you could get as much as 40 Kwh-e/day. That is a generously high number. If you start with a more realistic 5.8kWh/m2/day and less than optimal conversion efficiency, the result is closer to 35 Kwh-e/day.

If you assume the setup is made of 24 x 250W panels, that's 6KW capacity. Assuming 5 equivalent "full sun" hours per day average (a generous number), you can get about 30KWh-e. I'd go with 30Kwh-e/day. One could easily come up with a much loser estimate if one wanted to be conservative in that direction.

Re:Math check (3, Informative)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 3 months ago | (#46958589)

My method is just fine, thank you very much. I happen to work at a german research center on solar energy.

The performance ratio takes all losses in consideration (cable, MPP, inverter, shadowing,...) and isn't dependent on either the area (which is 27m2 for this carport, BTW) or the efficiency (about 15% for this carport).

With the performance ratio, you can convert solar irradiance (in kWh/m2.year) directly into specific yield (in kWh/kWp.year).
This carport has 3.6kWp capacity, and seems to be developed by Solarwatt.

Re:Math check (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46959277)

You know, no one here would dispute your numbers if you owned a Tesla and claimed you were doing this with the Tesla. They'd hail you as a god and claim that BMW stole your idea and that the royalties rightly belong to Elon.

Re:Math check (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#46959347)

With the performance ratio, you can convert solar irradiance (in kWh/m2.year) directly into specific yield (in kWh/kWp.year).

You state performance ratio of 90%. However, kWh/m2 electrical output = more like 0.15 kWh/m2 Solar irradiance.

I don't see how you included the 0.20 conversion solar to electrical efficiency in your performance ration. 90% only accounts for losses from electrical output of panel to load, plus shadowing and other physical installation factors as you stated.

In other words, you do not get 90% of 6.8 kwh/m2/day in electrical output. You get more like 15%.

Re:Math check (3, Informative)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 3 months ago | (#46959491)

Take a look at the units for solar irradiance and specific yield.
They are *not* the same.
The 20% cell efficiency (or anything between 0.05 and 0.44) is included in the conversion between m2 and kWp : e.g. you need 5m2 of PV modules at 20% for 1kWp.
Performance ratio and cell efficiency are different notions. Performance ratio can theoretically be higher than 100%.
http://www.photon.info/photon_... [photon.info]

Re:How long? (3, Insightful)

donaldm (919619) | about 3 months ago | (#46957459)

It looks to be using 24 panels in a 6x4 configuration.

'Standard' 250W panels are 40"x65", giving my 20'x22', so 'close enough', especially if you slant it a bit.

Assuming ideal, that's 6kw. More realistically 3kw in most areas, about 43kwh per day. About 129 miles of electricity at 3 miles per kwh.

Sounds good on paper, however unless the person who uses this is a night worker the whole array is pretty much next to useless since most day workers would have taken their electric car to work and only return to park under their now non functioning solar car port once the sun has gone down. Of course if we consider the weekend the electric car could be recharged during the day unless the driver has decided to take the car to say a shopping centre. So I think I would be fairly confident to say that with regard to recharging the electric car most of the charging would actually be from the mains.

Instead of spending money on a car port just to power their car it is more practical to feed the solar power back to the grid and/or powering devices that require power during the day. This is not to say that the car port is a waste of money but like anything that is solar powered some thought is required on the best use of the device.

Re:How long? (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 3 months ago | (#46957555)

I'm reasonably certain that the carport solar cells don't jack directly into the car. Solar input fluctuates too much, so at a minimum, you'd need charge controllers. Most likely, also fixed batteries, to allow for the fact that people are more likely to be away from home when the sun is out.

I still like the idea, though. Even if it wasn't a 100% solution, it reduces overall grid requirements. Plus it takes energy that would otherwise either heat up the carport or reflect into the greenhouse and put it to practical use.

Re:How long? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#46957617)

Even if the owner doesn't use that energy to charge their car they can feed it back into the grid to offset what they take out at night. might even get feed-in tariff. Alternatively it could be a business buying the PV to reduce its energy costs and provide a nice perk to employees.

Re:How long? (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#46957775)

Sounds good on paper, however unless the person who uses this is a night worker the whole array is pretty much next to useless since most day workers would have taken their electric car to work and only return to park under their now non functioning solar car port once the sun has gone down.

Dingdingdingdingding!

So I think I would be fairly confident to say that with regard to recharging the electric car most of the charging would actually be from the mains.

Well, let's cover the office and the shopping center and the parking garage with solar panels. At least some of it could come from the sky at the point of use. And if you're going to run a lot of capacity there anyway so that cars which are there can be charged, it's a good place to site the panels even when they're not being used locally.

Re:How long? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 3 months ago | (#46957897)

Well, let's cover the office and the shopping center and the parking garage with solar panels. At least some of it could come from the sky at the point of use. And if you're going to run a lot of capacity there anyway so that cars which are there can be charged, it's a good place to site the panels even when they're not being used locally.

Offices and shopping centres already use a lot of power. I'm not sure why the existence of electric cars really changes anything - they haven't installed PV to cover their usual energy consumption so why would they install PV to charge your car?

Re:How long? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#46958355)

they haven't installed PV to cover their usual energy consumption so why would they install PV to charge your car?

Because there's a finite amount of electrical energy available to them due to real-world considerations, and a time may come when they may not actually be able to buy more. If we substantially increase our use of EVs without increasing our centralized power generation capability, we'll have to increase it in a distributed fashion. Also, solar panels can improve the life of roofs, and these are roofs which are already predominantly flat and thus less hazardous to wander around on.

Draw in customers, and it's cheaper maybe? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46959323)

In affluent and sunny enough areas they already install carports to help keep people's expensive cars cool and unfaded.

So I can see installing solar panel car shades to attract people through a combination of
1. Offering electric chargers(cheap enough)
2. Drawing the greens(they have solar panels!)
3. People who just hate hot cars(shelter!)

They might also realize significant savings through tax benefits because it's not a shelter(no incentives), it's a solar system mounted high enough to be out of the car's way(incentives).

It's a grid-tie system (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46959297)

Instead of spending money on a car port just to power their car it is more practical to feed the solar power back to the grid and/or powering devices that require power during the day.

That's actually just what they're doing, FTA [motorauthority.com] : With the Wallbox Pro’s features, excess solar energy not needed to charge the car can be used by the connected house.

In short it's a grid tie system that advertises itself as a car charger. Only reason the electricity would go primarily 'to the car' would be proximity.

The interesting thought I had is that if you write the work description right you could get the 30% federal credit for the whole carport by claiming the support structures are there for the solar panels(and they technically are, so you might get away with it!), and note that the solar panels ARE the roof, not laying on top of the roof, so there's some substantial savings there.

Re:How long? (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#46957171)

The point is not to rely on solar for charging exclusively, the point is to add some up-front cost in exchange for a lower running cost. You are spending tends of thousands on the car port, perhaps with a dedicated high speed charger, so you might as well throw in a little more and harvest all that free sunshine too.

Re:How long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46959285)

People put in carports because they're cheap - for example this one, which is reasonably stylish:
http://www.costco.com/Palram-Arcadia-5000-All-Season-Carport.product.100005501.html?catalogId=10701&keyword=carport&langId=-1&storeId=10301
Under $2000. The panels, far from being "a little more", would probably be in the neighborhood of $30k+ for enough to offset your car charging. That's if you don't have any trees around shading your panels so you can actually get the maximum output.
I really wanted to put panels on a house I'm building, but here in the Northeast the payback is so marginal that if there are any issues with trees etc it's really pointless. I look at it that the cost of the panels in large part reflects the energy used to create & transport them; if I don't see an economic payback then that's math telling me I'm kidding myself that I'm actually being green. Especially since I can buy wind power locally, whereas the panels were probably produced using Chinese coal plants.
All that being said, in a shade free part of Florida or somewhere I'd like a carport like this, and it might well make sense there. You'd have to accept that you're paying a premium for the look, rather than standard panels on a roof, but people do that all the time. I'm paying a lot more for the house I'm building than a standard McMansion would cost, for a smaller square footage, because it's what I want.

Cute but somewhat pointless... (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 3 months ago | (#46956987)

..., a qualification which usually applies to "concepts". It's a nice idea to charge your car using solar panels, but if you're commuting, your car will not be sitting in that car port during the most sunny hours of the day. Besides, you can put those solar panels anywhere; choose the most efficient spot, which isn't necessarily the carport roof. Also: simply laying down solar panels on a flat roof is inefficient; you'll want to mount them at a 30 or so degree angle facing south.

Re:Cute but somewhat pointless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957027)

Northism at its best since of course if you placed solar panels south where I live they would be even more inefficient that having them lay flat.

Re:Cute but somewhat pointless... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957047)

First up, it's not like solar carports are a new idea [google.com] . Note that in many of the pictures the cars were clearly under solar panels in commercial lots, so that handles the commute

Still, this is a lot better idea than putting solar panels on the car itself, at least a carport will have a predictable amount of sun, and as you mentioned, it can be angled properly.

I'd note that this 'solar charging station' is actually only so in name, instead being a standard grid-tie system. The benefit is that covered car ports are really, really nice to have in sunny areas(saves on air conditioning, wear&tear on vehicle, etc...), so making the roof solar panels is a marginal cost over having to have a roof there in the first place, even if it would only be corrugated tin or something otherwise.

30' south facing is only if you're at 30' latitude. I'll note that the BMW concept IS tilted somewhat. The actual angle you'd end up settling on would depend on where you are, the weather, and the balance you want between using the panels as shelter and gathering power from them.

I've proposed these before. If you do the research, you'll find that Solar panels are really, really tough. One possible way to reduce expense in new-build, as we see here, would be to actually use the panels as the 'roof', eliminating the expensive conventional roof underneath.

Re:Cute but somewhat pointless... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957439)

It's a nice idea to charge your car using solar panels, but if you're commuting, your car will not be sitting in that car port during the most sunny hours of the day.

Good thinking, detective. Perhaps they install batteries so the energy collected by the PV panels during the day can be stored and used when the car returns for the night?

Re:Cute but somewhat pointless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958025)

Batteries add a lot to the overall cost and overall maintenance of the structure.

Re:Cute but somewhat pointless... (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#46958185)

While it does have some kinks to work out, consider:

1. While those working at the equator will indeed have the car at home when it's mostly dark out, a sizeable population of those well-to-do enough to afford cars live far enough north (or south) of the equator that their car will be home for quite a number of daylight hours.

2. Quite a number of people work from home these days. In this instance you WOULD be home the hours you're working.

3. Of those not working from home, a large portion are business owners or work in a small company where you might decide to install your carport at work, and be able to do that.

4. Companies offer company cars to some employees, why not add a carport to the work parking lot?

5. Big companies like Apple just LOVE environmental initiatives, if this became big, you'd have them rolling these out on campus (I'll leave for another discussion whether it's out of altruism or PR concerns or...?).

6. The key point is cost savings. If people save enough money with this, companies would install these and RENT them to their emplyees. Let's say you save $20 / gas a week, and these things last for 10 years before breaking down. That's $10k in saved money by employees. If they are cheap enough, say $5k an installation, you have a situation where the employer could rent them back to employees.

7. (In relation to point 6) Gas prices only go up, and technology only gets better. If it doesn't make financial sense now for some, it probably will in the future (and this is something that will take years to roll out anyways).

8. (In relation to point 6 & 7) Your costs are not everyone's costs. For instance, when I drove in Europe gas costs for me were $200+ a week commuting (even though I was relatively close, due to very high gas prices). At that rate, our earlier calculation would be a savings of $100k over a 10 year period. If my employer won't rent me one, I'm sure I can find saavy business owners around the block to come to an agreement for rental of space for an installation. Sign me up!

I could go on, but I hope I've made my point. :D

Epic Fail! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46956999)

My car generally sits in my car-port at night.
Unless it comes with very expensive secondary storage batteries, it's as much use to me as tits on a bull.

Re:Epic Fail! (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#46957551)

Where do you park during the day? If your employer were to install solar PV and some charging points it could make them quite a lot of money. The solar will pay for itself fairly quickly, the charging points are attractive benefits for employees and out of business hours can generate income from paying customers.

Stay on the grid (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 3 months ago | (#46957001)

Glad to read that they at least suggest that this thing gets connected to the main electicity grid (so they also deliver electricity when the car isn't charging, which is most of the time). Also, I guess you should just charge the car from the grid as well. Many people will tend to drive in the day, and charge at night, so, off the grid really seems silly. A rough estimate tells me that the panels could deliver as much as 10 kW (if you're lucky), so size-wise this is not enough to charge the car quickly. Another reason to stay on the grid.

So, using a flat surface of the carport roof for solar panels? Good idea. But it's just not really relevant to involve the car in this story, as you'll be charging it from the grid, like everyone else with an electric car.

Re:Stay on the grid (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957075)

So, using a flat surface of the carport roof for solar panels? Good idea. But it's just not really relevant to involve the car in this story, as you'll be charging it from the grid, like everyone else with an electric car.

It's more using solar panels AS the roof to save having to put a regular roof on, with it being a grid-tie system. Thus, you can consider the cost of the solar system to be reduced by what the cost of a conventional roof would have been. Since that could be 30% of the cost of the solar cells, it's not insubstantial. Plus, 30% federal rebate(in the USA) on said solar roof, while there's none for a conventional one, and you might even be able to deduct some of the carport construction by saying the supports are holding the solar panels up in a better location... ;)

The only 'reason' solar power would go to the car over the rest of the grid is proximity.

Re:Stay on the grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958081)

30% savings from a carport roof? No way in hell. The suckers are dirt cheap

Riiiight (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 3 months ago | (#46957015)

So, you install solar cells, but you only actually get to use them when your car is in the carport - otherwise they're a wasted investment. Given that solar cells already cost more per kwH that most other types of electrical generation, that makes a whole lot of sense - not.

Anyway, is "functional art" mean to be a euphemism for "ugly as sin"?

If you want to put solar cells on a roof and attach them to the grid, more power to you. But that's not what they're touting here.

Read the fine print (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957081)

If you read the fine print, it's a grid-tie system, it feeds the electricity to the house/grid for net metering if a car isn't sucking down all it can provide and more.

Anyway, is "functional art" mean to be a euphemism for "ugly as sin"?

It's also not to my taste, but I can see somebody liking it. It has more 'soul' than conventional painted beams would.

"Holistic" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957019)

It's "holistic." That means they take 20 electrons from the sun, dilute them into a swimming pool vat of water, then dump the water into your vehicle. Voila, fully charged!

Useless. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 3 months ago | (#46957093)

Even if the solar panels had the right inclination, they'd produce 2-3kW at most.

And you'd have to park the car there during the day. Most drivers use their vehicle during the day and leave it parked at night.

Why put the panels on he car port? (1)

pr100 (653298) | about 3 months ago | (#46957099)

If you're going to install solar panels then putting them on a car port is often not going to be the smart thing to do. You want to pick the place with the best exposure to the sun, which will often be the house roof. And you don't want to use the power generated just to charge up the car - if you've got the panels you might as well feed the power into the house for general domestic use. There is some additional overhead in sorting that out - buying an inverter and doing the wiring - worth it in the long run if you're buying and installing the panels anyway.

That's at best trickle charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957127)

Ok if you don't use your car for a month and don't want it become empty (though it would likely have a hard time keeping up with the Tesla discharge bug). But for serious recharging? Not really.

Beautiful? (2)

Hypotensive (2836435) | about 3 months ago | (#46957135)

I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to this beholder it looks like something that would drive property values down, not up.

Re:Beautiful? (4, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#46957471)

Spoken like a true BMW owner.

Good idea... with still a missing link (3, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | about 3 months ago | (#46957163)

As I am currently looking into buying an electrical car, I was considering doing (almost) exactly this : Installing solar cells on the roof of the house to charge the car. It wouldn't even take that much solar cells; 20 square meters would charge the car in a reasonable amount of time. Free energy, right?

While considering the idea, a fundamental problem stuck me: Most of the time when the Sun shines, the car isn't parked at home. It is either parked in front of my office or, when I'm not working, I'm driving somewhere else, enjoying the Sun that could have charged my car. The solution to this issue was to add batteries to the concept, in order to store the Suns energy as I am away and transfer this energy back to the car at night when I am home.

Considering the car has a capacity exceeding 20 kWh, the battery solutions becomes extremely expensive - as expensive as the car itself actually (if not more). Without the battery, it's a nice expensive systems that will produce a lot of power when I don't need it. It's always possible to sell back the excess power to the utilities, but you get a loss let out of it this way and it makes your life quite complicated.

Forgetting this fundamental limitation, after doing a lot of calculation, it turned out that it would take over 20 years to amortize; and I doubt the battery system would last 20 years under the kind of stress it would be put too (nearly daily full deep cycles). And this is assuming the normal electricity prices. In fact, the charge stations are highly subsidized and your are basically paying the price large industry would pay for electricity. Suddenly your amortization period goes up over 40 years.

It's not (yet) worth it, although the technology is actually there and ready.

Conclusion : Power accumulation solution in the 20 - 40 kWh range are too expensive and power is too cheap.

Re:Good idea... with still a missing link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957211)

On the next step, instead of electric car, they go hydrogen and the roof become your own facility to produce hydrogen from tap water.

Or someone found a room temperature supraconductor able to store 40 kWh or more. It can be heavy, but it has to be cheaper than a collection of lead battery.

Re:Good idea... with still a missing link (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#46957467)

So hook the solar cells into a syncing inverter and drive your electricity meter backwards. Use the power company as your battery.

Re:Good idea... with still a missing link (1)

geogob (569250) | about 3 months ago | (#46957677)

It might look that simple, but it isn't. Here at least, this is strongly regulated. The only thing you can do without it being a pain is to use the power and stop the meter.

Re:Good idea... with still a missing link (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#46958693)

Wow, Around here the Power company MUST allow you to feed backwards and they have to either allow the meter to run backwards or buy the power from you.

I back feed from 200 watts of panels as a simple plug in system here and it actually made enough of a dent that it paid for the $450 in micro syncing inverters and two panels in a single year.

I was curious how big this would have to be (2)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#46957215)

A typical sedan gets about 30 mpg. Figure the average car travels 15000 miles in a year, or 41 miles per day on average. That means it burns 1.37 gallons of gas each day.

A gallon of gas has about 120 MJ. Gasoline engines are about 25% efficient, so the 1.37 gallons of gas consumed represents 123.3 MJ lost as heat, and about 41 MJ of energy used to push the car each day.

Charging a battery is about 75%-85% efficient; call it 80%. Realistically you'd need another battery to sit at the carport charging (leaving the car parked there all day to charge means you can't drive it). This battery would also help even out the cloudy days with the sunny days. So since you're charging from battery-to-battery, you're hitting this 80% efficiency loss twice. Electric motors are about 90% efficient (that's peak, but then so is the 25% efficiency for an ICE). So for an EV to put 41 MJ into pushing the car, it needs 41/(.8*.8*.9) = 71.2 MJ sent to the carport's battery.

PV panels generate about 150 W/m^2 peak. Multiply by the average capacity factor for the U.S. of 0.145 to get 22 W/m^2 on average. Multiply by 24 hours and you get 1.9 MJ/m^2 per day.

So to charge your typical sedan EV entirely with solar power to drive it 41 miles per day, your carport would need 71.2/1.9 = 37.5 square meters of solar panels. Or 404 square feet for those in the U.S. That's a mighty big carport.

Re:I was curious how big this would have to be (1)

Calinous (985536) | about 3 months ago | (#46957289)

It's a two car port

Re:I was curious how big this would have to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957477)

Two chickens in every dual car pot.

Re:I was curious how big this would have to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46958265)

You had to bring reality into it.

Ford had a carport design as well, except it was passive, where the car took the focused sunlight and slowly backed up over the day to keep with the sun's position.

Realistically, I've found solar great for keeping a battery bank topped off and having a 15 amp circuit in a house that stuff that had a parasitic draw, but low current could constantly use. It also functions as a high quality UPS. For the tinfoil hat crowd, it can function as a way to hide electric usage for small electrical loads (sorry, no grow room on 15-20 amps.)

As for powering an EV... no.

Re:I was curious how big this would have to be (2)

fche (36607) | about 3 months ago | (#46958537)

"Multiply by 24 hours and you get 1.9 MJ/m^2 per day."

You can multiply it with any number you like, but you won't get much sunshine at night.

Solar panels over farms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957257)

Solar panels over a carport is fine, but I'd like to see them over more farms [google.com] . Besides providing clean energy, the solar panels would protect the crops from the hot sun (a big problem in the US midwest in 2012), and from hailstorms. (Well-built solar panels can withstand hailstorms [renewableenergysolar.net] .)

During a regular rain (not a hailstorm), the panels could be tilted vertically, so that the rain was distributed evenly among the crops.

I guess the biggest problem a farmer would have with this, would be driving his tractor over ground that had lots of poles sticking out of the ground, supporting the panels.

Will never work.... (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#46957463)

As if a BMW owner will live in a place with a "car port" and not a garage.

No the 20 something working at walmart that is driving the beat up 325i does not count.

Re:Will never work.... (1)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about 3 months ago | (#46957529)

As if a BMW owner will live in a place with a "car port" and not a garage....

No joke. See how the HOA feels about building this carport on your property...

Re:Will never work.... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46958587)

As if a BMW owner will live in a place with a "car port" and not a garage....

No joke. See how the HOA feels about building this carport on your property...

"But the article called it 'stunning functional art!"

"Yea, well, it looks like a big ugly spider to us; request denied, beeotch."

Re:Will never work.... (1)

geogob (569250) | about 3 months ago | (#46957737)

I see a lot a of BMW parked under car ports everywhere here in Germany.
(And I still have to see a Walmart)

Re:Will never work.... (2)

MrMarkie (1079197) | about 3 months ago | (#46957977)

I hate to burst your bubble but I'm a BMW owner who doesn't own a garage and my car is not of the beat up variety.
It's not like a BMW is that expensive anyway.

Re:Will never work.... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 3 months ago | (#46959077)

No the 20 something working at walmart that is driving the beat up 325i does not count.

My beat-up 325i has an electric drivetrain from HobbyKing, you insensitive clod!

Why can't they put solar cells on the sun roof? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 3 months ago | (#46957567)

I even wrote to them, put some solar cells in the sun roof, use it to drive a couple of vent fans for hot days. Usually on the days I need it, there is plenty of sun light. I think some old car, may be Mazda Millennia, replacement for their 929, had it. But none of the car makers provide it. I am sure this idea is patented by someone and asking either too much, or these companies are stingy. Are there after market solar driven vent fans for parked cars?

Re:Why can't they put solar cells on the sun roof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957875)

$9.99 solves your problem.
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=solar+car... [lmgtfy.com]

The worst part of the design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957605)

The worst part of the design is the gaps between the solar panels.

Which means when it rains, water drips from the panels on to you and your car.

I mean. isn't the main purpose of a carport to protect your car from the sun and the rain?

fi85t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957631)

The 'communitY' trouble. It morning. Now I have And its long term

Ye of little imagination! (1)

vakuona (788200) | about 3 months ago | (#46957789)

This is a concept. Concepts can be improved!

As long as your commute doesn't run your battery down completely, and as long as you charge tend to recharge more than you discharge through use, a car port like this will keep you topped up.

This could also be hooked up to your mains to supply most of your own electricity.

Maybe, if car makers came together and created standard battery sizes, capacities and forms, you could build in battery swap station to allow your battery to be recharged when you are not at home, and allow your EV to always be swapped onto the battery with the most charge.

Something I've often wondered (3, Insightful)

necro81 (917438) | about 3 months ago | (#46957793)

I spent a few months living in Arizona some years back. I lived in an apartment complex where most of the space between the buildings was the carpark. The most coveted spaces were the ones that had a sort of awning or overhang, so that the car was out of direct sunlight. It made a huge difference in how hot the car got.

As an engineer, seeing this vast swath of paved-over space (more than an acre all told), some of which was itself covered with structures specifically intended to block the sun, I thought to myself: why in the hell don't they just cover the entire carpark, and cover it with solar panels, to boot? The complex could advertise itself as having all-shaded parking (and commensurate higher rent) and reduce its net electricity consumption. In sunny Arizona, such a project could have paid for itself in less than a decade; today, the economics are even more favorable.

My question is: why isn't this (grid-tied, solar panel-shaded parking lots) done by every piece of commercial real estate in sunny climes? You make greater use of a resource (land area), the tenants' cars end up cooler (you can charge higher rent for that), it has a more or less guaranteed return in a reasonable time span, and reduces operating expenses (lowered electric bills). See, for instance, the western parking lot at the Googleplex headquarters [google.com] . Why isn't this done everywhere?

Why not R&D body solar pannels? (1)

Dan Askme (2895283) | about 3 months ago | (#46957825)

I really dont understand why they havnt used solar panels to cover the bodywork yet.
Add this to the breaking power charging, A car that can drive and charge at the same time, makes more sense to me.

Solar panels on the car could Increase the range, even if its only 5-20% and a free "low charge" rate when parked, cant go wrong.
Just wish they would spend less time on carbon fiber, more time to R&D for solar body panels.

carbon fiber? (1)

oic0 (1864384) | about 3 months ago | (#46957853)

All that expensive light weight carbon fiber is completely worth it because it will help my carp port accelerate faster when its picked up by a wind storm.

you Inse\nsitive clod! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46957889)

these Challenges [goat.cx]

Initially Read That as "Carpet" (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 3 months ago | (#46958061)

But I can still ask if the carport matches the drapes?

lmao.bamboo + carbon fiber + hurricane = fly away (1)

jerryjnormandin (1942378) | about 3 months ago | (#46958213)

What are they thinking ? My carport is made of wood, concrete, and roofing material (roofing shingles,etc) In New England structures need to withstand 100mph wind gusts. It does happen. Winter Blizzard wind gusts have hit 80mph. Cold wind packs a punch. My next home improvement is going to involve replacing the decorative shutters with real working shutters. A large carport roof is a great place to locate solar panels. I'm still looking for a deal. Something that won't take 17 years to pay for itself. That is just stupid to me. I'm looking to build a cheap 5kw solar generator for $1,500.00. I bet it can be done. I

Carbon Fiber (1)

confused one (671304) | about 3 months ago | (#46958943)

Carbon Fiber is a poor choice if you're looking at sustainability. It's energy intensive to make it. The primary components are made from petrochemicals. It's not recyclable. You would be better off using cast aluminum for the supports and arches -- while it takes a lot of energy to extract initially, it's fairly robust and can be readily recycled 20 or 30 years in the future when the carport gets replaced.

i-Series... what a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46959255)

I'm sorry, I cant take any story seriously that has any reference to that P.O.S. i8. Seriously... a $135,000 car with a 7kW battery. Even the much-criticized Volt has a 17kW battery. "ooohh noes... its the Tesla killer!!" lulz.

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