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UVa Electric Car Is Now Solar Powered

By: Myles Henderson Email
By: Myles Henderson Email

February 24, 2010

The future of the solar powered electric car at the University of Virginia is bright thanks to the "Ride Forward" project.

"Our goal really is to take a standard car and convert it to electric drive." says James Durand, a Adjunct Professor at UVa.

Over the past year Durand's mechanical engineering class converted a 1994 Honda Accord to run on electricity. No internal combustion engine means no gas, no emissions, no greenhouse gases and almost no noise.

UVa. 4th year Adam Burton says, "The motor has a peak torque of 240 foot pounds, which is a lot higher than a regular Honda Accord, but it has less horsepower. The torque makes it feel like you're accelerating faster."

As you would expect with an electric car, you have to plug it in to recharge it, a process now being supplemented by the sun. There are six photovoltaic panels on the bus kiosk at the Emmet/Ivy parking garage that are helping to supply some of that energy.

UVa. 4th year Andrew Carlson says, "The energy we take from the grid we have to put back some of it on. So we put up this solar panel array as a way to offset that energy used."

Each panel can produce up to 200 watts on a sunny day, and that energy is fed into the grid to help power the garage.

"We are essentially powering the garage and then we will be power the car off of the garage." says UVa. 1st year Douglas Koenig.

Durand estimates that the solar panels will provide enough energy to power the car 3,000 miles over the course of a year. UVa 2nd year Brad Zercoe says, "I think we are trying to figure out how to convert more UVa fleet vehicles for use on grounds to reduce emissions."

The "Ride Forward" project has already been expanded, and the team is now working to convert a Ford Ranger pick-up truck to electric power.

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