HERDON, VA - Ten years ago, solar headlamps would have been relegated to the same bin as glow-in-the-dark sunglasses and inflatable dartboards. Today, they're just another innovation in the EV/hybrid race to a green Shangri-La and a nice feature on a slick solar hybrid built by college kids, according to www.wired.com.
Members of the Georgia Tech Solar Jackets yanked the engine out of an Audi TT and replaced it with a solar-electric drivetrain that offers a 70-mile range and retains the TT's all-wheel drive. They call the car a "solar-assist electric vehicle."
Sheets of thin-film photovoltaic laminate (in other words, flexible solar panel stickers) cover most of the skyward-facing surfaces. Strangely reminiscent of the excessive application of faux-carbon fiber often seen, these "stickers" actually improve performance. The solar array provides 12 volts to the windows, stereo, power brakes, steering, and the lighting. Any energy remaining is stored in the car's 120v battery pack.
To charge, the vehicle plugs into any household outlet. The team hopes to double the car's range to 140 miles when it installs a lithium-ion battery later this summer. It also is building a racer that runs solely on solar. Look for it in the 2010 Solar Car World Championship and the 2011 World Solar Car Derby.
At first glance, the TT's 62 kilowatt (83 hp) motor may seem anemic, but the Electro-Audi touts 200 foot-pounds of torque. Every bit of it is unleashed as soon as you hit the accelerator. That probably gives it off-the-line performance on the heels of the high-end TT Quattro model, and the Solar Jackets say the car is quite capable of impressive parking lot donuts, according to Wired.