I've built some of those model solar cars before. You know, the little ones that crawl along the sidewalk in bright sunlight? They are a neat lesson in solar power, but they aren't very practical. Scaled up, they wouldn't generate enough power to move at all. In the UK, though, one lucky six-year-old got to drive a much more efficient solar car.
Dr. Graham Sparey-Taylor and his team at Glyndwr University in Wales have designed a solar-electric car, known as Nos Gwawr II, that will be entered into the North American Solar Challenge in 2010. To test the design's aerodynamics, the team created a half-sized model. Unfortunately, this little car isn't big enough for an adult. However, Dr. Sparey-Taylor's son, Finnbar, is the perfect size to drive it. As Dr. Sparey-Taylor says, "He's got the opportunity to play with technology of the future that other kids haven't got."
The model car travels no faster than walking speed, as it only has a small motor, but the full scale one is estimated to go at around 100 miles per hour. There is also a second design option, a "commuter model." The team hopes to sell the design as a viable solar car in Wales. It would be a big step forward in automobile technology if this catches on.
And, come on. Who wouldn't want to be that kid, testing these solar cars?
Check out Nos Gwawr II