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May 122010

From Green Right Now Reports

Converting a conventional Honda to run on electricity is one thing, but how do you go about providing a power supply for your new creation?

Solar powers a garage, which powers a car, at UVA. Next project: An EV-converted Ford Ranger.

Solar powers a garage, which powers a car, at UVA. Next project: An EV-converted Ford Ranger.

Students at the University of Virginia seem to have found the answers on both ends of the project. Currently, they are working with the university’s Facilities Management to install photovoltaic panels near the car’s parking space in the hope of generating enough electricity to at least partially power the vehicle.

The panels will feed electricity to the garage, where the car (which will be used by the Department of Parking and Transportation) will be housed and recharged.

“The solar-generated electricity will be part of the power supply for the garage,” said Cheryl Gomez, director of utilities for the university. “And we will meter it. Assuming roughly 1,100 hours of sunlight per year, this should yield about 1,320 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.”

The car, which can travel about 120 miles between charges, will probably consume about 3,100 kilowatts of electricity if driven about 5,600 miles per year, Gomez said. This will mean the panels will offset about 43 percent of car’s energy use.

“We will put the electricity in one area and take it out another,” said James Durand, an adjunct professor and research associate in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, whose mechanical engineering students conceived and executed the project.

Six 200-watt photovoltaic cells, measuring about 3 feet by 5 feet each and weighing a total of 240 pounds, were funded through donations and installed by Facilities Management employees. These panels, guaranteed for 25 years, should reduce the University’s carbon footprint by about 0.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, Gomez said.

Durand said that about 30 students were involved with the project, which has been dubbed “Ride Forward.”

“It’s an engineering course, but it is multi-disciplinary, with students doing everything from designing the car to constructing it,” Durand said. “This is a group effort to find sustainable transportation.”