Jul 13, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
Our stock answer to a very common question ("Why don't you put solar panels on a PHEV?") has routinely been as follows:
"A car's rooftop surface area is too small to make a significant contribution. Unless/until PV cells become more efficient, and are part of the original installation, they will seriously affect the car's aerodynamics and will be far less durable than metal. Photovoltaic arrays belong on stationary rooftops -- which is an excellent way to drive on solar power (roof > house > car)."
We're not necessarily ready to reverse that position yet, but increasing chatter in the PV community suggests that acceptable (meaning "a significant amount of energy generated") rooftop solar cells may not necessarily be as far off as our answer suggests. And we've learned a new acronym: VIPV, for Vehicle Integrated Photovoltaics. (I humbly suggest we refer to it as "Vip-Vee.")
In an article posted at RenewableEnergyAccess.com (and elsewhere), Steven Letendre of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development (http://www.prometheus.org/) gives an excellent overview of the potential PHEVs have in relation to solar panels, the grid, energy storage and V2G (vehicle-to-grid) applications:
Dr. Letendre references an earlier article in the May/June issue of Solar Today in which he and his colleagues first refer to Vip-Ve-- I mean VIPV:
http://www.solartoday.org/2006/may_june06/solar_vehicles.htm (article abstract)
For now, roof > house > car (or solar-carport > car) is still the most sensible PV solution for PHEVs, but our FAQ answer certainly needs a touch-up for now, and maybe more changes soon.