One of the main complaints people have about the benefits of electric cars is that they will always contribute to global emissions as long as the electricity they use is not generated in a clean way. And sure, they do, but the per-mile emissions on an EV are a damn sight less than your average gas-powered car.
But scientists around the world are always out to improve things, and that includes developing much cleaner, more efficient ways of generating the electricity we need to power all our stuff. And this brings us onto a group of Australian scientists working on something pretty exciting.
A team of scientists from the University of Newcastle in Australia are working on a much cheaper way of making solar panels and have come up with an ambitious way to showcase their results.
The team, lead by Paul Dastoor, is working on a new solar panel that can be printed using a commercial printer.
Specifically, these new panels are being made using a wine label maker. Constructing the panels in this way makes them much cheaper than traditional solar cells, at just AU$10 per meter. That’s roughly $2 per foot.
As it stands, the solar cells have an efficiency of around two percent, but the team is targeting at least four percent efficiency from cells. They also hope to construct the power packs using organic electronics technology to ensure they are fully renewable.
It’s a lofty goal for the scientists and one that becomes even more ambitious when you hear how they want to show off the new tech.
That’s because the scientists from the University of Newcastle are planning a road trip around Australia in an EV that will be powered solely by electricity generated on these panels.
According to Reuters, Paul Dastoor and his team will take a Tesla on a 9,400-mile journey across Australia later this year. The journey will start in Newcastle and stop off at cities including Sydney and Melbourne.
Dubbed The Charge Around Australia, the journey will see the team travel for 84 days on solar power alone. On the way, they hope to overcome people’s range anxiety around driving electric cars.
To do this, they will transport an 18-meter (60ft) long solar panel in the trunk of a Tesla electric car. At each charging stop, the solar cells will be unrolled to take in the sun’s energy and transform it into electricity.
The team says it will take the solar cells six hours to fully recharge the car’s batteries.
But why are these printed solar cells better than the ones we have, despite being much less efficient?
Well, in a blog post on the project’s website, Dr Benjamin Vaughan from the University of Newcastle explained that it all comes down to the weight of the panels.
While they will require a greater panel surface area to generate the electricity they need, using the printed panels means the weight of all this would be considerably less than if traditional solar cells were used.
“It makes it easier to carry them on the journey. They also roll up, so we’re using less space, which is handy,” he explained.