Continual improvements in the efficiency of photovoltaic cells has steadily brought their price down. As a result, more and more designers are incorporating them into ideas for future electricity-consuming solar concepts. Solar cells are already being used in residential and commercial buildings. What’s being taken more seriously lately is using them to power such things as solar cars and solar boats, among other things.
Hitting the Road
Recently, Ford Motor Co. exhibited a modified C-MAX hybrid that uses a Fresnel lens to focus sunlight on rooftop cells that recharge its batteries. Beyond this, other designers have played with more radical ideas for solar cars, like the Helios concept car, who’s solar panels can expand when the vehicle is stationary to capture more energy.
An equally radical idea among solar concepts is Peugeot’s Shoo. Technically, it’s considered a four-wheeled vehicle, but it appears, at first glance, like a three-wheeled car.
Sun and Surf
Solar designs aren’t limited to the land. Since there’s fewer issues with weight, shape, and speed, solar boats actually have more opportunities for radical configurations. In fact, the Turanor PlanetSolar has already journeyed completely around the world using a catamaran with a horizontal surface of solar cells. While solar cells have to roughly face towards the sun to be effective, solar boats allow nearly unlimited ways to achieve this. A good example is the solar yacht by Novague Studio. This craft features retractable panels that expand outward, accordion-like, to catch maximum amounts of energy.
More Than Shelter
Architecture provides the oldest and most extensive platform for solar designs. In spite of this, creative new solar concepts keep developing in this area. One example that’s past the planning stage is the Vertical Village in Dubai. http://www.archdaily.com/225687/vertical-village-graft-architects/ This unique building uses massive solar panels to supply power for the towers they’re attached to. Thye also shade the surrounding area. Future solar designs for buildings make even more ingenious use of panels that also shade. Zoka Zola Architects has proposed the imaginative Chicago Solar Tower. This cylindrical building is covered with hundreds of self-adjusting panels that follow the sun while shading their own individual patches of the tower.