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solar powered shipping

 
paul wheaton
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I had a weird idea the other day.

There are lots of people that are stressed about how shipping stuff in trucks uses a lot of fuel.

Now that we are seeing things like the tesla vehicle that can go 250 miles on a charge .... and they can be charged with a solar panel array ...... I wonder if a semi truck could have solar panels mounted on the top of the truck and on top of the trailer. Maybe during a sunny day, that would be enough power to keep the rig going down a freeway.

Most class-8 trucks ("tractor trailer", "18 wheeler", "semi truck") with a full load get about 6 miles per gallon of diesel. Some with aerodynamic improvements get 7 to 8. Maybe a hybrid could get 16. And maybe with all the solar panels, it could get 500 mpg or better at noon on a sunny day.

My understanding is that trains are even more economical. And I'm pretty sure they are already diesel/electric hybrids. So then it just becomes a matter of adding solar panels.

I dunno, just a crazy thought. I haven't done any actual math.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Interesting thought. A tractor-trailer does indeed have a large flat surface on top. It probably wouldn't be too hard to do some power estimates.

Most hybrids do that braking-energy-recapture thing, don't they? Boy, the braking energy for a tractor trailer must be enormous.
 
Paul Clapham
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Maybe that will happen some day. My crazy thought was, when it rains we have all that water running down the downspouts on the outside of the house. (I live in Vancouver so you know what I mean.) So why not put little turbines in the downspouts? We could all be micro power producers! But I didn't do the arithmetic either.
 
Ben Souther
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I think the price of the panels would need to be driven way down first.

There is a loading dock just outside my window and most of the trucks that pull into it have had some kind of repair work done on the trailer roofs (low bridges, branches, etc...). With the current price of panels these days, it would be very expensive to keep replacing them every time the trailer swiped something.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Originally posted by Paul Clapham:
Maybe that will happen some day. My crazy thought was, when it rains we have all that water running down the downspouts on the outside of the house. (I live in Vancouver so you know what I mean.) So why not put little turbines in the downspouts? We could all be micro power producers! But I didn't do the arithmetic either.


Wow, that one would be easy and cheap to implement yourself. Even if you just charged a bunch of rechargeable AA's with it, that's be cool.
 
R K Singh
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Originally posted by Paul Clapham:
Maybe that will happen some day. My crazy thought was, when it rains we have all that water running down the downspouts on the outside of the house. (I live in Vancouver so you know what I mean.) So why not put little turbines in the downspouts? We could all be micro power producers! But I didn't do the arithmetic either.


sometime back I went Honey Valley in Coorg, India.

It was a remote place, only accessible by Jeep, with almost no road, no mobile network and mid of jungle & coffee plants.

The owner of resort was generating electricity for the resort from the rain water. He was producing good enough electricity to provide light almost 18-20 hrs for 10 houses.
 
Stan James
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I just read that Formula 1 will allow regenerative braking in a couple years. They won't be electric hybrids. They will use energy to spin up flywheels (60,000 RPM, counter-rotating) instead of wasting it all as heat, and then pump that back into the next burst of acceleration. I wonder if trucks could do that ... and stop using the Jake (Jacobs) Brake on the turnpike near my house.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Cool!
 
John Smith
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Something like this?

[link]

[ Oversize image converted to link - Jim ]
[ August 09, 2007: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]
 
Burkhard Hassel
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In the upper athmosphere, the energy of the sun light is about 1.367 kW/m2. At sea level this reduces to about 1 kw/m2.
To reduce the calculation stuff say, a truck has an area (top side only) of 2.5 * 6 = 15 square meters. And you have solar cells that transform 25% of the light energy into electrical energy.

When you drive in broad sunlight you'll get 3.75 kW.
Enough for a real fat CB radio. Or an easy audible horn.


But something different:
There are so many hamster wheels around that are without generators. And all the machines in the health clubs! All still non-wired!



WHaaaa!












Sorry, there was this spider coming down my monitor.

Pausing,








Now it's gone. Where is it?


One moment please.
Bu.
 
Bert Bates
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We recently went to a talk by a guy who has done a lot of work in this arena. You're definitely on the right track if this guy is correct. His main contention is that if we really want to make a dent, it's not in getting cars that are getting 30mpg up to 50mpg - those cars are only using a couple of hundred of gallons of gas / year as it is. The real benefit is if we can get all of those pickup trucks (and larger), to go from 10 mpg to 12 or 15 mpg. Those guys might be using 1000 gallons / yr., and reducing that consumption by couple of hundred of gallons would really add up.
 
paul wheaton
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(any chance the really cool pic could get smaller?)

I think that if the cost of roads/police/etc. was bundled into the price of gas, we would see a bit more concern about fuel economy.

Plus, if the price of gas included some carbon offset, that would be nice. We've been paying for a lot of this stuff with income taxes. I would like to see the income taxes go down and fuel taxes go up.
 
Frank Silbermann
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Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:
Interesting thought. A tractor-trailer does indeed have a large flat surface on top. It probably wouldn't be too hard to do some power estimates.

Most hybrids do that braking-energy-recapture thing, don't they? Boy, the braking energy for a tractor trailer must be enormous.
Braking-energy-recapture is great for delivery trucks, but 18-wheelers spend most of the time on the highway. I don't think they do much starting and stopping.
 
Burkhard Hassel
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I like the idea of higher taxes on fuel to promote higher effectivity in using energy.
Simply because the regular prices of fuel don't pay for the harm they do.

The figures about solar energy I posted only to say that direct use of solar energy in vehicels is not of much use.
The solar energy must be gathered at large areas, then concentrated and stored -somehow- and used later in cars.
For the "somehow", Bert promotes Biodiesel in his signature. Here in Germany, regular diesel fuel already contains a certain amount of biodiesel by law.
Or ethanol, like in Brazil (from sugar cane). Or hydrogen. How you concentrate an store the solar energy is not so important.

One easy way to reduce fuel consumption is simply the speed. Reduce it to an optimum, with a traffic system that also can take this snail truck without jamming. And you can make the trucks longer to reduce the air resistance. If you made the truck long enough it will be called train....


Bu.
 
Andrew Monkhouse
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So you could have a road train:



I missed your point earlier Bu - you did some math, and came up with a guestimate of 3.75 kW. Then you implied that this was a really low number by suggesting that it would power a CB radio. But from my memory, CB radios generally only pull 1 or 2 amps, which would be 24 watts for a 2 amp CB on a 12 volt system. So the power from the solar cells could power 156 CB radios. Or power something that would probably have your local radio regulatory body looking at you very closely!

Now when I am driving in the rain, I have noticed that most of the rain hits the front windscreen. So should we tilt the solar panels on the top of the truck so that most of the sunlight hits them?

- Andrew
 
Ben Souther
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It probably wouldn't be possible to put enough solar panels on a truck or train to get enough useful power.
Another thought, for trains, would be to line the track itself with panels.
All of the subways and many of the rail lines in Connecticut are already electric. The area immediately surrounding a railroad track has already been cleared and can't be used for anything else anyway.

Again, the price of the panels would probably need to come way down before the return would be worth the investment.
 
Stan James
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Braking-energy-recapture is great for delivery trucks, but 18-wheelers spend most of the time on the highway. I don't think they do much starting and stopping.


I was thinking about hills and mountains. My sister lived in a VW microbus in the Rockies back in the day, and learned that if you have to downshift going up hill you didn't come out of the last corner fast enough. It could have used a boost from a monster flywheel spun up on the last downslope.
 
John Smith
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Originally posted by Burkhard Hassel:
In the upper athmosphere, the energy of the sun light is about 1.367 kW/m2. At sea level this reduces to about 1 kw/m2.
To reduce the calculation stuff say, a truck has an area (top side only) of 2.5 * 6 = 15 square meters. And you have solar cells that transform 25% of the light energy into electrical energy.

When you drive in broad sunlight you'll get 3.75 kW.
Enough for a real fat CB radio. Or an easy audible horn.


OK, so suppose I need a real truck with, say 500hp engine. That translates into 372Kw. What that means is that the area of the solar panels must be around 100 times the area of the truck roof! Is that right? Now I know why we don't see 'em on the roads.
[ August 09, 2007: Message edited by: John Smith ]
 
paul wheaton
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You can take away about half the horse power when you use a hybrid system. So now we're down to 186kw.

Most of that power is needed for acceleration. If you are travelling at a constant 60 mph with aerodynamic enhancements, your energy needs might be a lot less. After all, you're pushing just a little more than coasting. Maybe your needs are 5% of what you need during a hard acceleration.

We are now at 9.3kw. Getting closer!

BTW: 3.75kw is 3750 watts. That's a helluva lot of power. An electric heater at full blast uses 1500 watts - the maximum amount of power that most home outlets are rated to carry. If you try more than 2000 watts for an entire room you will likely pop the breaker.
 
paul wheaton
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I suppose the real problem might be that the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day.

So if you have a hybrid system, it might cut your fuel costs by 40%. And adding the solar panels to the roof might cut out another 20% (assuming that the truck is rolling only 12 hours a day).

But one of those trucks uses about ... (60mph * 12 hour = 720 miles per day. 8 mpg = 90 gallons of fuel per day. 90*365*3) $100,000 worth of fuel each year. So a 20% savings would mean $20,000 per year. Probably worth it. Panels on the sides and back might even be worth it.

Trains operate far more efficiently and are already hybrids ...
 
Frank Silbermann
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Another source of fuel savings is to create computer-controlled hookups between vehicles. If two vehicles are going for a long stretch on the same highway, they can synchronize their accelaration and braking with that of the lead vehicle for safe tailgating -- with the vehicles only inches apart. By sharing the air-resistance and drag, both vehicles will see substantial fuel savings.

If you get several vehicles to hook up in a train, the fuel savings will be amazing.
 
Paul Clapham
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I saw a television program last night, it's a new Ian Wright series where he stays in expensive places around the world, and it featured a solar-powered rickshaw belonging to the Maharajah of Udaipur.
 
Jim Yingst
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[Frank]: If you get several vehicles to hook up in a train, the fuel savings will be amazing.

Which brings to mind this (or perhaps this).
 
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