1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can you add solar panels to a gas-electric hybrid to improve mileage?

  1. Apr 28, 2007 #1
    THe solar cells can power an electrical battery and help offset the need to use greenhouse gas.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 28, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes, you can. In fact, it's being done already. There is also a strictly electric car which supplements its battery with a solar charger.
  4. Apr 28, 2007 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, but the amount of power you can get from solar panels on your car will not make the difference significant unless the car is a stripped-down experimental/concept car.

    The most you'll get on an absolutely perfect day, with the sun directly overhead and 60 square feet of solar panel is about 1 kW, or 1.3 horsepower.
  5. Apr 28, 2007 #4

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    For a car that is all electric or a hybrid that has enough battery to be significant, solar cells might make sense in that they can charge all day while the car is parked.

    When multi-layered cells like those used on the Mars rovers are affordable, the solar industry will change significantly; and better yet, solar cell paint that can make your entire car or house a solar panel for pennies on today's dollars per square meter. For now though, can you imagine the theft problem if the skin of your car was worth $20K. Already public parks and road departments have problems with theft of small solar panels from remote stations, telephones, lights, etc.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2007
  6. May 26, 2007 #5
    If you are trying to save money, I dont think adding a solar panel is a good idea. Solar panels are pretty expensive. Yes, gas is expensive compared to 50 years ago, but it might actually be years (or never) before you can officially say you have saved money by adding a solar panel to offset the gas price.

    However, you do get the bragging rights of having a more fuel efficient vehicle than compared to others. No offense, but sometimes I think driving a hybrid might not actually be that beneficial to the environment. Look at this article:
    Apparently, they say that the resources taken to build the Prius (the environmental damage caused by mining land to make batteries) outweighs the environmental benefits of putting out less emissions. In fact, the article even claims that driving a Hummer does less harm to the environment than having a Prius.
  7. Jun 7, 2007 #6
    The study on which this article is based is severely flawed.

    Here's one example, they came up with an 'estimated lifetime' for all the vehicles in the study:

    Toyata Prius - 109,000 miles
    Honda Civic - 113,000 miles
    Hummer H1 - 379,000 miles

    (note - the prius comes with a 150k warranty -- so estimating less than that for the average lifetime is obviously flawed) There is no justification for these numbers in the report, but they use these lifetime numbers as the basis for a lot of their cost figures. So, the Hummer ends up comparing pretty well.

    They also mention batteries - Toyota recycles 100% of their batteries, Honda recycles most of the battery (all the metals) and processes and safely disposes the rest (the plastic housing and cabling). Both companies put ~$200 bounties on the batteries to ensure they get turned in for recycling. And while nickel is certainly toxic, the lead in all of our lead/acid batteries is even more toxic.

    Some other simple math will debunk this study. The average american drives ~12,500 miles annually. They claim that a prius costs $3.25/mile to drive. Do you know anyone spending over $40,000/year on their car?

    I'm not trying to say that hybrids are perfect by any means. I'm only trying to point out the flaws of this particular study. Say what you will about hybrids, just don't use this study to back up your position.
  8. Jun 10, 2007 #7
    doesn't any metal generate a current when struck by an EM wave? hence einstein's photoelectric effect? is it just very small?
  9. Jun 13, 2007 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Einstein's breakthrough with the photoelectric effect says that it only generates a current if the individual photon has enough energy to release an electron.
    For most metals this is in the UV - generally too far into the UV for the photon to pass through the atmosphere. Most of the engineering in solar panels is to produce materials with weakly held electrons ( low bandgap ) that they can be released by the more plentiful, longer wavelength, photons.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook