Timothy J. Vaughn

Photon-powered devices were once the imagination of sci-fi writers for stories about futuristic places and civilizations. Television shows and movies like Star Trek and Star Wars had photon-based devices. Today these ideas are a reality. With the advancement in power-generation from photovoltaic cells and modules, commonly referred to as solar modules or panels, we are now generating power for our homes, businesses, stores, schools and more. The conversion of photons (light particles) into electricity has been possible for several decades, and the applications are spreading rapidly. Globally, photovoltaic power generation is the fastest growing sector of the power-generation industry. The technology has evolved and improved to the point where it requires little or no financial incentive to be competitive with other means for generating electricity. In some developing locations, it is actually the lowest-cost electrical power.


More recently, the development of high-capacity, lightweight, lithium-based batteries has driven a revolution in portable electrical technologies. They are what make the cell phone a small portable device, portable media players (MP3), digital readers like the “Kindle” and a multitude of other devices possible, as well as the new wave of tablet computers and laptops we have grown accustomed to using daily. These electrical devices all run on lithium-based batteries.


This advancement in batteries has also created the possibility of commercially available electric cars. Most major manufacturers of automobiles have been selling hybrid cars and trucks for several years, and some are now offering all-electric vehicles. Prior to this advancement in lithium-based batteries, lead, a heavy metal, was the primary material used in rechargeable batteries. The power density of lead-based batteries is much lower. With a lower density and heavier weight, it was not feasible to create a personal vehicle that had enough range to meet the demands of the average American driver. With this new wave of high-density and lower-weight batteries, everything has changed—from our cell phones to all types of personal devices, and now even our cars.


With the advancement in both of these technologies and the lower cost for the technologies due to larger production globally, we can now make the next logical step and combine the two technologies to create a true photon-powered vehicle. The way that it becomes photon-powered is not by embedding the photovoltaic cells on the car. This would add weight, and the photovoltaic-cell efficiency is not adequate to produce enough power to charge them while we drive. The solution is to install a photon system to power our electrical loads at home or work. This is now possible with the low-cost photovoltaic cells and lightweight, high-density lithium batteries.


This is truly the age of the photon-powered car.




Tim Vaughn is a solar energy industry expert with over 24 years experience in renewable energy. He is also proud owner of a 2013 Chevy Volt that he charges at home with photon energy. tvaughn@leanenergyconsulting.com





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