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Solar carport: using sunlight to make electric cars cheaper to run


Solar carport: using sunlight to make electric cars cheaper to run

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The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a chance for German carmaker BMW to show off its new
solutions for home charging of electric and plug-in hybrid models.

The BMW i is a solar-powered carport system capable of generating and storing energy. It is meant to be used in conjunction with the company’s existing home charging station, not only charging the car with solar energy, but redistributing any surplus power back into the consumer’s home.

“This is what we are aiming to go for – full integration of our electric cars. This means a electric vehicle becomes a part of your home, of your energy flows at home. So you have your solar generation, you have your house load – your house consumption – and the car, with our system, gets fully integrated into this,” says BMW product manager Julian Lienich.

A bamboo and carbon fiber structure supporting a cluster of 40 solar panels, the carport is used in conjunction with the BMW i Wallbox Pro system. Using real-time solar and home energy data gathering software, the touchscreen display offers weather and solar power forecasts so users can better manage optimal solar charging times, or opt for domestic electricity supply at off-peak rates.

“If you decide you would like to charge your car solely with solar energy, then the energy storage gets charged, during the day, via solar power, and during night the car then gets charged out of the energy from the storage. We manage this through a smart home energy system and thereby fully integrate the car,” says BMW’s Julian Lienich.

Adapted to its i3 and i8 series, the BMW solar-powered carport should be available by 2016, echoing a growing trend in this niche market, which is expected to increase dramatically in the United States over the coming years.

Getting there faster: Thyssenkrupp’s high-tech lift system

Moving on to another German company which hopes to revolutionise the way we rise and drop at home and at work.

German firm Thyssenkrupp has launched what it calls the world’s first cable-free elevator.

Using magnets instead of cables, the ‘Multi’ lift system is propelled by a magnet-based drive that allows several cabins to move both horizontally and vertically in the same elevator shaft, at the same time.

Elevator design has hardly progressed in the past 160 years, and still comprises cabins which move vertically in a shaft supported by cables, often requiring people to wait a long time for the next lift.

ThyssenKrupp’s engineers say the old-style Paternoster lift helped inspire their new system.

The Paternoster lift is a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments, usually designed for two people, that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping.

Thyssenkrupp’s system circulates cabins in a similar way, but is faster and has brakes to stop at required floors.

Rather than a single shaft, a skyscraper featuring the ‘Multi’ would sport a complex system of shafts that could offer passengers access to an elevator every 15 to 30 seconds.

Thyssenkrupp hopes to introduce its first full-size prototype by 2016.

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