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Columbia Company Unveils Solar Car Charger

The six-panel solar car charger is said to be capable of charging a Chevy Volt in four hours.

A Columbia company has developed an environmentally friendly solution to charging environmentally friendly electric cars—solar-powered chargers.

The latest sun-tracking solar car-charger, developed by Advanced Technology and Research Corporation, was unveiled at Win Kelly Chevrolet in Clarksville on Thursday. The dealership will use the charger to power the all-electric Chevy Volts it sells.

The charger consists of six solar panels set on an 18-foot pole. The panels use GPS technology to shift with the sun, according to a spokesperson for ATR.

“I am exceedingly proud that one of our own local companies, ATR, has developed such cutting-edge technology in the field of renewable energy,” said County Exectuive Ken Ulman at the event.

The solar-powered charger is capable of fully charging a Chevy Volt in about four hours and a Nissan Leaf, which has a bigger battery, in about seven, according to Eric Rees, the chief financial and chief operating officer for ATR. When not charging a car, the system can be plugged into the grid to feed unused electricity back into the grid.

ATR installed its first solar-powered car charger last August in Bethesda, MD, according to the spokesperson.

Rees said the company plans to produce hundreds or even thousands of them eventually, but for now the company has produced a small initial batch and is selling and installing those. The cost of the charger is about $23,000, according to Rees.

“[Electric vehicle] owners are making an important and strongly eco-friendly choice by buying electric vehicles in the first place,” said Rob Lundahl, ATR’s VP for energy and automation. “And these same eco-minded values are going to influence their choices of where they refuel their cars, shop, go out to eat and stay overnight. EV charging stations will be the least this new and growing class of consumer will look for.” 

ATR was also in the news recently after it neighborhood center that will help power some of the buildings there.

Brook Hubbard May 29, 2012 at 06:46 PM
While I applaud the move toward a more ecologically-friendly system of private transportation, what are the logistics of using this technology, especially in a heavily-developed suburban area? If everyone converted to electric cars, would the electrical grid be able to support them? Would every home owner be required to have a solar charging station? Where would they install them and how would this interfere with the varying HOA requirements? Even if not home installed, would there be enough outlets to supply the sheer amount of automobiles that would exist in this area? I am all for "Green Energy", but the complications that would arise as people had to install power stations at home or would vie for public ones (like they do at gas stations) seem problematic... especially at a rate of 4-7 ~hours~ per "fill up". Hopefully this technology moves fast toward a more reasonable solution, instead of attempts to implement inventions that are half-finished and unfeasible given the situation.
david brown May 29, 2012 at 10:38 PM
I charge my car at night. That's when demand for electricity is lowest. It's the perfect situation. If you want to panic about something, think about all your dollars going overseas and never coming back, or the oil spill that devastated the gulf of Mexico, or the Exxon Valdez, or whatever the next big oil disaster will be... or all the chemicals from fracking that are getting into the drinking water. Worry about those first, not how difficult it's ging to be to charge up a car during off-peak hours.
MG42 May 29, 2012 at 11:34 PM
@David just so you know, solar chargers don't work at night. Furthermore, they are so expensive, few people can afford them. And if everyone plugged their electric cars into the grid, suddenly demand is high all the time. Keep this in mind: even with cost of the Valdez, the Gulf oil spill, etc. the cost of oil is still much cheaper than Solar. Solar isn't happening on a meaningful scale anytime soon.
Andrew Metcalf (Editor) May 29, 2012 at 11:57 PM
@Ohai, although solar chargers don't work at night, there are ways to charge a battery with one during the day, which could then be used to charge a car at night.
Brook Hubbard May 30, 2012 at 03:48 PM
@David - I don't believe I was panicking, so much as raising legitimate questions about the feasibility of the program in it's current state. According to 2009 census data, there are 3.9 million licensed drivers in Maryland. That doesn't even count people who have multiple cars or the thousands of out-of-state drivers that travel, commute, or stay here. If even half of those suddenly switched to pure electric vehicles, what would the consequences be? Would the electrical grid be able to support the draw of almost 2 million cars at a rate of 1.5 kWh/hour ~each~ (based on a normal house outlet)? Even during lower cost periods, such as night? Say that everyone installs one of these new solar panel arrays at their home to help supplement this increase in electricity requirements. I can't find any specific references to the size of area needed, but using references in the above photo suggest an area of 12' x 8' x 8' is necessary. What will the HOAs say should half the homeowners suddenly wish to sport these in their yards? Again, read what I said: I ~support~ Green Energy and ecologically-friendly technology. However, we should not jump headfirst into technology when it is not quite finished. Remember the fiasco with hybrid cars when they first came out and the severe costs on repairing/maintaining them. Only now are we perfecting that technology, so we need to be careful about immediately jumping to the next level.
JCWilliams May 30, 2012 at 03:49 PM
@brook @davidbrown, @ohai , @andrew Metcalfe The ATR Solar EV charging station is designed track the sun producing up to 30% more power over the course of the day . Also it's grid-tied , feeding the electricity you do not consume back to the grid . And because it' grid tied you can still charge your vehicle at night. The benefits to the Home owner or Business owner are : A 30%Federal Rebate and any State or Local govt tax incentives and SREC's with solar . Also depending on the Utility provider, the owner can qualify for clean energy production credits which lower your energy bill while offsetting your daytime consumption saving you money our the course of the year .
Andrew Metcalf (Editor) May 30, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Thank you, great information.
MG42 May 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM
And all for the "low" price of $23,000 each! Why do we continue to use tax dollars to subsidize toys for the rich?
Rick September 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM
@H.R.Pufnstuf: no offense, but you lack imagination. I've read of skeptics like that even in the 1020's thought air travel was a hobby for the rich and adventurous, or people in the late 70's who thought computers were for big government and corporations, and that the only home applications were for kids to play on the Atari, Commodore 500 and Tandy (not sure of the spelling, but it was made by RadioShack). It's ok if you want to be held back for lack of imagination, but don't accuse other and the government for thinking big and being bold.
MG42 September 05, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Smart people imagining cool things and making them happen with their own money is awesome. Cluess political figures gambling with tax dollars on politically correct nonsense is very different animal all together.

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