September 3, 2008--Pardon the pun, but solar technology is "hot, hot, hot" and it seems everyone wants a piece of the action. SPIE's Optics + Photonics 2008 conference was no exception. Displayed in the exhibit hall at this year's event, held August 10-14 in San Diego, CA, was the Viking XX Solar Race Vehicle--a creation of the Vehicle Research Institute (VRI) at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA). A video is also available on our VIDEO player at www.laserfocusworld.com and in this story.
If you didn't look carefully, the Viking XX looked more like a top-heavy light airplane or glider, with a tiny push-me-pull-you bidirectional cockpit that insured the car's huge, sloping solar panel would always be facing south for maximum solar exposure. Nathan Chapman, a VRI volunteer who helped build the vehicle, was able to provide Laser Focus World some interesting facts about the car in the video interview now playing on the Laser Focus World video player on our Web site. As well as being archived on our video player, you can also watch the video HERE:
The Viking XX--equipped with 10,324 space-grade monocrystalline silicon solar cells with 15% efficiency and peak power 1800 W, Eagle Picher silver-zinc batteries, and a 95% efficient 10 hp Unique Mobility permanent-magnet DC brushless motor--is able to achieve top speeds of 70 miles per hour (mph), 50 mph average highway speed, and 32 mph average in the city. The 19.7 x 6.5 x 5.3 cubic-foot car placed first in the California Clean Air Race from Sacramento to Los Angeles, and has a roster of other wins as well. While the design is definitely "prototypical," it nonetheless shows what is possible in an age where all possibilities are in dire need and must be embraced to eliminate our fossil-fuel dependence.