Chicago Installs Solar Powered Charging Station for Electric Vehicles

Apr 10, 2009 by Miranda Marquit weblog
EV Charging Station
Is Chicago leading the way for solar-powered EV charging stations?

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the biggest arguments that some have made against plug-in electric vehicles is that they still promote the use of fossil fuels. When you have to plug in a car for a charge, the electricity used to charge the battery often comes from a power plant that gets its energy from oil. Chicago is hoping to change that as it becomes the first city to install an electric vehicle (EV) charging station powered with solar energy.

When you think of advances in making electric vehicles easier to use, you do not normally think of Chicago. San Francisco or Portland often come to mine. Both cities are working to install EV charging stations throughout the city in order to make "filling up" with electricity almost as convenient as filling up with . But Chicago has gone one better. Not only will Chicago provide EV charging stations, but the city will do so using renewable . Solar power will be used to provide electricity, negating the need for fossil fuels altogether if you drive an electric vehicle in the Windy City.

There is a tree-like canopy that holds the solar panels. These panels collect the sun's light and facilitates the transformation into electric energy. Storage of the electricity is underground. The station was built by Carbon Day Automotive. The company hopes that other cities will follow suit, allowing them to build solar-powered EV charging stations for other American cities.

For now, the City of Chicago is likely to be the biggest user of the EV station. The city has a fleet of electric cars, and the charging station will be used daily to make sure that the cars have the that they need. It's a great idea, and proof that innovation and technology can move us into a more sustainable future -- one that doesn't require to keep us going.

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Qi wireless charging standard offers more design freedom

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EarthTalk: Are hybrid cars really better for the environment?

Mar 30, 2009

Dear EarthTalk: If you have an electric or plug-in hybrid car, you're paying for electricity rather than gasoline all or most of the time. How does that cost compare to a gas-powered car's cost-per-mile? And since the electricity ...

Obama puts up $2.4 bln for electric vehicles

Mar 19, 2009

President Barack Obama Thursday unveiled a 2.4 billion dollar boost for electric vehicle development, vowing to compete with foreign nations in the race to be world leader on renewable energy.

Recommended for you

Qi wireless charging standard offers more design freedom

6 hours ago

Wireless charging is getting a new technology treatment which offers more design freedom. The Wireless Power Consortium's advance in its Qi wireless charging standard means that phones and chargers will no ...

'Wetting' a battery's appetite for renewable energy storage

11 hours ago

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material ...

New system to optimize public lighting power consumption

11 hours ago

In order to meet the efficiency requirements of the latest public lighting regulations, researchers from the School of Industrial Engineers of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), in collaboration with ...

Many tongues, one voice, one common ambition

Jul 31, 2014

There is much need to develop energy efficient solutions for residential buildings in Europe. The EU-funded project, MeeFS, due to be completed by the end of 2015, is developing an innovative multifunctional and energy efficient ...

Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

Jul 31, 2014

(AP)—American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs.

User comments : 30

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Soylent
1 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2009
Is that an overcast day I'm seeing in that photo? Gee, that's good PR; well, at least it's honest.
Doug_Huffman
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 10, 2009
B A R B A R A S T R E I S A N D !!

The Solar Constant is 1350 Watts per square meter equivalent to less than 6 kiloWattHours per square meter per day.

Who fails to do arithmetic is doomed to nonsense.
joefarah
3.3 / 5 (8) Apr 10, 2009
OK Let's hear the numbers... How many cars can be charged per day at this station? In what century will the cost of the station and solar panels, including cost to the environment, reach break-even? How long does it take to recharge a city car? And what do the city personnel do while it is recharging - perhaps there's a pub nearby?
tpb
3.5 / 5 (6) Apr 10, 2009
Another expensive government example of SHOW vs SUBSTANCE.
On the original article it looked like 6 solar panels in the picture.
To be really generous, lets say they produce 5kwh per day.
The Chevy volt gets 40 miles from 8kwhs of energy.
So this solar powered charging station will be able to provide enough power to drive one car 25 miles per day.
jonnyboy
1.8 / 5 (10) Apr 10, 2009
What do you expect from the land that brought us Barack Obama. Just another political boondoggle.
John_balls
3.4 / 5 (10) Apr 10, 2009
What do you expect from the land that brought us Barack Obama. Just another political boondoggle.

Bush the mass murder, yea he was so much better.
Blah
4.6 / 5 (11) Apr 10, 2009
Jeez man you guys are bunch of complainers. Can't win any way. What ever you do don't even try to make things better. At least there are people that are trying even though the technology is not perfect.



You guys just sit on the sidelines complaining everything, yeah blame it on Barack Obama even though Bush lied over and over and drove us into a hole not even trying to pull up our country.



Solar and renewable energies will prevail with our with out all you boot dragging perfectionist.



We don't have any other choices now and need to move forward towards other energy sources besides oil.



Stop through blame around and lets clean up our home!
earls
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 10, 2009
Amen Blah, too much wallowing in the here and now instead of thinking about the future. Baby steps...
MorituriMax
2 / 5 (8) Apr 10, 2009
john balls said, "Bush the mass murder, yea he was so much better."

Ah so let me see if I understand your logic. Instead of hiring a pedophile to babysit your kid, you'd rather hire a prositute who will go through all your stuff for money or things she can sell for her drug habit.
tpb
3.6 / 5 (7) Apr 10, 2009
to BLAH, quote
"We don't have any other choices now and need to move forward towards other energy sources besides oil."

So, did Nuclear power never get invented?
Why the selective memory from all you greeny econuts.

Nuclear power is the least expensive, least polluting power source we have.
We should be building hundreds of them along with some reprocessing plants to separate out the waste.

For all practical purposes, with breeder reactors and in the future using thorium as a fuel, we have an unlimited supply of cheap clean energy.

By shutting down Yucca Flats, and not removing the congressional ban on fuel reprocessing, the Obama administration and the democrats have effectively banned anymore Nuclear power in the US.
Doug_Huffman
2 / 5 (8) Apr 10, 2009
Blah, "Solar and renewable energies will prevail with our with out all you boot dragging perfectionist." Nonsense. 1350 Watts meter^-2 is all that is there, even perfectly.

Blah blah
earls
5 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2009
Doug, that's more than we'll ever need, all we have to do is store it efficiently. SMES! We just need to resolve that tiny cryogenics problem. :p
davec
4.4 / 5 (9) Apr 11, 2009
The article is encouraging.

The fact the some people are smart enough to mention math is even more encouraging.

Here is some simple math for all the idiots who commented here and do not know math.

You can go on the net and find all kinds of solar panels that get anywere from 150 watts per hour on up.

1000 watts per hour is about 1 horse power.

7 horse power is about what it takes to run any car at around 40 miles per hour.

So 7000 watts will charge any car for an hour for 40 miles.

So just simple math will tell you it is not only feasible but very smart to put up solar panels to collect 7000 watts for about 6 hours which will charge one car for 6 times 40 miles or 240 miles. More than enough for one day.

The cost of the watts is 0 once the solar panels are built.

The pollution is 0.

Only idiots would try and claim gasoline is better or even makes sense.

One last point for all you idiots out there. Gasoline is refined from oil which came from life which came from the sun a long time ago. Why not stop being an idiot and just get the energy straight
from the sun to begin with.
Bob_Kob
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 11, 2009
One last point for all you idiots out there. Gasoline is refined from oil which came from life which came from the sun a long time ago. Why not stop being an idiot and just get the energy straight
from the sun to begin with.


Because it took many many kilos of organic matter to create gasoline. That equates to years of plants turning sun into energy, whilst solar cells are only a direct conversion of sun to energy - Gas is the equivalent of a sun battery.
tpb
3.1 / 5 (9) Apr 11, 2009
So davec, simple math huh, using your numbers.
7kw from 180 watt panels = 39 solar panels.
39 * $700 per panel = $27,000.

Add in the cost of land, installation and interest on the capital and you are talking at least $50,000.

Of course, the panels only get 180 watts if pointed directly at the sun at noon, so maybe 45 panels will give you your 42kwhs at $57,000.

$57,000/$2.20gallon = 25910 gallon equivalents.
With a modern hybrid at 50 miles/gallon, you could get 1,295,500 miles from this investment.

At 240 miles/day from the solar panels, it will only take 1,295,500/240 = 5398 days to pay off the cost of the solar panels.

This is 14.75 years, and this doesn't include the cost of cleaning the panels or the fact that Chicago has many days of rain and clouds which makes things worse.

Oops, it's now time to replace the panels because they have degraded with time.
Free energy after the panels are installed!!!!
This is a financial disaster.

I noticed that no one replied to my comments about nuclear power which is far more practical than solar.


DGBEACH
2.6 / 5 (8) Apr 11, 2009
It's called investing in our future *tpb*...money has no value when your environment is too hostile to support your life. Besides, you Yanks' are printing so much of it these days that it's already worth next to nothing anyways!

The future belongs to our children, who will undoubtedly create a "money-free" society (a la Star Trek). So points such as yours will become moot.

Whatever money is put into solar technologies today, will basically be used to further those technologies, making them more efficient. And since our generation has screwed up the world's finances so well, maybe it's time we start working towards a system that will actually work.

I know you Yanks are deathly afraid of anything that sounds like Socialism, but your idea of a capitalistic system doesn't work, and it is plain to everyone else but you. You should be ashamed of yourselves!

Fazer
2.9 / 5 (8) Apr 11, 2009
DGBEACH, I love Star Trek, but it's just a TV show (made in the US), and they never demonstrated a money free society. We will always trade for things we value. Money is just a symbol of our efforts, and trading our efforts on an open, free market will always be preferable to other systems. So get used to capitalism, it is the most "natural" way to trade.

You can be ashamed of yourself if you want. You can go back and live in a cave, or in a sun-warmed grass hut, but I am proud of mankind's achievements, and particularly those of the U.S., and I will never feel ashamed of myself for being human or American. Everyone makes mistakes, but American style capitalism is the driving force that WILL lead us into the future. Like it or not, it contributes the most to technological innovation. Universities and government labs would seldom produce anything practical these days if it were not for the ability to sell that technology on the open market.

I do think that solar will be a big part of our future, and capitalism is what will get us there. This charging station is just for show. Until and unless solar is efficient and economical enough, there won't be a market to help further drive down the cost of production. This will happen naturally and government subsidies are a waste and tantamount to putting a gun to everyone's head and forcing them to invest. Solar is impractical for this type of use. We'll get there eventually, but because it requires so much power, and in such a small place, transportation is the last sector that will make use of solar, not the first.
Fazer
5 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2009
Okay, I have poked around and cannot find any info on the tech specs of this charging station, but I did find plenty of statements about how Chicago is gearing up to impress the Olympic Evaluation Commission by, among oither things, "greening" the city.

The charging station, minus the solar array, is of the same type being installed in many cites to allow charging off the grid for a fee.
Doug_Huffman
2 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2009
TPG, my civilian equivalent title was 'start-up engineer'. Nuclear power is secure power.

http://www.nnsy1....sion.htm
DGBEACH
3 / 5 (4) Apr 12, 2009
You can be ashamed of yourself if you want. You can go back and live in a cave, or in a sun-warmed grass hut, but I am proud of mankind's achievements, and particularly those of the U.S.

Uh I never said I was ashamed of MYSELF! I hail from a country with responsible fiscal policies (and banking system), despite the bully we have living next door to us which constantly tries to entice us into living just as irresponsibly as them (you).
American style capitalism is the driving force that WILL lead us into the future. Like it or not, it contributes the most to technological innovation.

If you throw enough money at something, eventually something will come out of it. The problem is that in your cases its o-t-h-e-r p-e-o-p-l-e'-s m-o-n-e-y!
Universities and government labs would seldom produce anything practical these days if it were not for the ability to sell that technology on the open market.

...and THAT is the saddest part...and you don't see it, do you...THIS is exactly the mentality which has to be changed if mankind is to survive as a species.
Soylent
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 12, 2009
Doug, that's more than we'll ever need, all we have to do is store it efficiently. SMES! We just need to resolve that tiny cryogenics problem. :p


SMES is for power conditioning, not bulk storage.
Soylent
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 12, 2009
You can go on the net and find all kinds of solar panels that get anywere from 150 watts per hour on up.


That's meaningless without knowing the size of the panel. That's nominal power, that's what you get at noon on the equator which is completely irrelevant.

In the inhabited world solar insolation is ~80-300 W/m^2 on an optimally inclined south oriented module(in other units: 2-7 kWh/(m^2*day)). Average output per square metre of solar panel will be some 5-60 watts/m^2 using commercial solar modules(no space station multi-junction stuff you can't buy for love nor money).

In the real world it's going to be worse than 5-60 W/m^2, you're going to have non-optimally inclined panels, you're going to have dust, bird pop and leaves. You're going to have losses in inversion or storage.

1000 watts per hour is about 1 horse power.


Gibberish. Watts per hour is an accelerating power output(using 1000 watts more every hour).

1 horsepower is 746 watts.

7 horse power is about what it takes to run any car at around 40 miles per hour.


A typical car cruising down the highway is using about 30 kW or 40 HP. It's going to be a bit less, maybe half at 40 mph, but not ~1/5th. It's going to use even more energy if it's doing a lot of starting and stopping.

So 7000 watts will charge any car for an hour for 40 miles.


If you count inversion, storage and battery charging efficiency into the efficiency of the solar cell and build a very aerodynamic car that only draws ~9 HP at 40 mph, yes.

So just simple math will tell you it is not only feasible but very smart to put up solar panels to collect 7000 watts for about 6 hours which will charge one car for 6 times 40 miles or 240 miles. More than enough for one day.


Allowing for the assumptions you've extracted from your nethers(infinite storage is free, ubiquitous and 100% efficient) you will need 5 to 58 square metres per vehicle per 40 mile trip at a constant 40 mph.

In a real world scenario you're looking at way more than that. With 1 hour of highway driving per day in a realistic car you're looking at 25 to 300 square metres of solar panels for each car. You'll have to tack on even more solar panels to account for frequent stopping and starting.

With realistic storage energy systems you'll get 60-90% round trip. Even more solar panels.

But this is absurd amount of solar panels just a simple car is not the deathnell. With realistic storage systems you might store electricity for a couple of days(even this is a huge stretch of the imagination, but lets allow it for the sake of argument). This will allow you to overcome a few overcast days in a row before resorting to the usual suspects(coal and gas) but it will not allow you to overcome seasonal dependencies nor weeks of poor weather. In the real world you'd oversize the system and put your panels at a sub optimal angle to optimize the amount of energy you gather in winter rather than in summer when you have more than you need. Unless you live in that thin band along the equator you're going to be using natural gas and coal for most of your energy and most of your solar energy is going to be surplus energy nobody wants to use.

The cost of the watts is 0 once the solar panels are built.


Patent nonsense.

You still need to replace them every 20 years. The tax payer still needs to pay you subsidies(either directly or in future taxes if the government choses to fund it by borrowing). You still need to clean them regularly. You still need to build and maintain a ridiculous amount of storage. Most of your energy still comes from dirty coal and gas.

These panels will never break even in terms of cost. If you have the tax payer foot half the bill it will be close but even that's still not enough.

Only idiots would try and claim gasoline is better or even makes sense.


Gasoline is better. It actually works, your system is simply impossible without quadrillions of dollars worth of storage and continent wide HVDC electrical grids except in a thin band near the equator. In practice your system will burn more than enough coal and gas to be worse than gasoline and the tax payer will pay through the nose for your folly.

One last point for all you idiots out there. Gasoline is refined from oil which came from life which came from the sun a long time ago. Why not stop being an idiot and just get the energy straight

from the sun to begin with.


I surmise by the lack of question mark that this is supposed to be a rhetorical question. The answer is both blindingly obvious and appears to have gone right over your head; we didn't have to make oil, we just dig up millions of years worth of nicely concentrated and refined energy in an easy to use form.

This is why nuclear is going to win(first fission, fusion whenever we get around to it) or if the solar and wind lobby get their way, we're going to burn coal and gas at ever increasing rates until they run out and society collapses.
Soylent
4 / 5 (4) Apr 12, 2009
At 240 miles/day from the solar panels, it will only take 1,295,500/240 = 5398 days to pay off the cost of the solar panels.

This is 14.75 years, and this doesn't include the cost of cleaning the panels or the fact that Chicago has many days of rain and clouds which makes things worse.


You're actually neglecting the bulk of the cost of this system in your payback estimate. It does not include the added cost of owning an electric car. It doesn't include the cost of storage(the panels are not attached to the car, the charging station needs to store electricity in order to charge a car when necessary), it includes neither the cost nor the electricity lost in storage, inversion(depending on if the car is made to charge from AC or DC) and voltage regulation. It does not include the fact that surplus production on summer days will be almost completely useless(even if you sell it to the electrical grid it's almost a liability to accept it; but I'm sure the grid will still be mandated to accept it and the tax payer will still get to subsidize each kWh produced). In the off-season most of your power will still come from non-solar sources(unless you massively oversize your panels or live near the equator).

I've heard from a solar industry rep that it takes approximately 20 years for solar panels to pay themselves back in a reasonable climate with net metering if government pays half the cost of the panels. But the government is us; if the government pays half the cost of solar panels and everyone buys panels it's exactly equivalent to just buying the panels at full price since half of the price will be funded by taxes or borrowing which is comming out of every tax payers pocket sooner or later.

Net meetering is also a subsidy. You use the transmission system twice and pay nothing(you currently pay more for transmission than generation almost everywhere in the world). You force utilities to accept poor quality electricity that may even be a liability to the electric grid.
earls
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2009
"SMES is for power conditioning, not bulk storage."

For now. :o

"Several 1 MW units" || "capacity of approximately 20 MWh"

Their storage capabilities are already far beyond that which would be required for a home or car. The cryogenics is just unmanageable for Harry Homeowner though.

Am I missing something?
Fazer
5 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2009
This is just too soon. National and local governemnts are basically just throwing away money on technology that will very soon be outdated.

Left alone, gas prices will go back up with the world's economies/stock markets, and electric cars will be adopted when and if they become attractive to consumers. When the market becomes big enough, gas station owners will install charging stations, and some of them will take a chance and install solar panels on their ample roof/canopy square footage, in order to help offset the cost of electricity from the grid. They could open adjoining cafes where you could lounge while your car charges.
dsl5000
5 / 5 (3) Apr 12, 2009
...solar power will be out dated when our sun dies...it's not throwing money away...and it doesn't take long to wipe poo off of it.

My goodness some of you guys sound like Oil PR's...

Shoot, all this talk about cars and it's costs..if you want to, you can buy a horse and feed it for less than the annual upkeep of a car...at least the horse can heal itself when it gets scraped. And it can be quite friendly.

But that isn't the point. The point is moving forward, to utilize new technology. Initial cost may be high, but the price will decrease. We hear about solar panel efficiency increases and production cost decreases...

Like any beginning of any new technology the costs will be higher (affluent persons goods). Look at gaming consoles, computer parts (computers), paper, etc... (but slowly the price will decrease when we increase production efficiency.)
fixer
5 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2009
I think you geniuses had better walk, Try not to trip over your shoelaces!
finfife
3 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2009
How many cars can be charged per day at this station?

Assuming a 20% capacity factor (the high end of Illinois' range, according to illinoissolar.org), this station could conceivably move a single Tesla Coupe about 17,000 miles per year, as long as the driver were careful not to take it off the charger on sunny days for more than 3 hours at time (the station's battery can only hold about that much juice).

A more likely application would be a "fleet" of two or three golf-cart-grade NEVs (neighborhood electric vehicles limited to 35mph), which might eke out 30,000 miles per year between them.

... And what do the city personnel do while it is recharging - perhaps there's a pub nearby?

I would envision one vehicle charging while the other one or two is/are in use.

I've played with the numbers for a bit, and I think the skeptics are largely right about this project. Best to think of it as demonstration or experimental. That interpretation is consistent with the presence of the battery, which makes no sense (economic or environmental) in the middle of Chicago.

That doesn't mean it wasn't worthwhile. But it could be a disaster if some politician looking for green cred decided it would be good idea to scale this up.
Fazer
2.5 / 5 (2) Apr 13, 2009
The problem is not adopting new technologies, I'm all for that and I'm often an early adopter. I just find it offensive and intollerable to see people forced to pay for government experimentation. I will vote against this kind of thing, and I will speak out against it whenever possible

Now, if some company or individual wants to invest in new technologies and services, more power to them. I'll buy from them, if they offer something usefull.

I have invested in Lithium production, and I hope to see new battery technology, but I would prefer to see it developed in the private sector and without subsidies. I am willing to wait for the market to grow on its own.
remoran
not rated yet Apr 18, 2009
It;s start and remember, alphas are always rough around the edges but it least something is trying to do something useful.