Project Pinwheel Design Diary: Entry XIV

The strangest thing happened.

I found what made me interested in solar energy as a child. It was a car I thought was called a "roach" but in fact people referred to it as that due to its shape.

It was the GM Sunraycer.

I vaguely remember seeing it in books or magazines and on TV and all I knew about it was that it was solar powered. Honestly, nothing else mattered; I thought it was beautiful and fascinating.

Here, we had a car that traveled by sunlight. Of course, I recognized then that being out in an open-field would be unrealistic for anyone who actually wanted a solar-powered vehicle. After all, roads simply aren't like that; they're filled with potholes and numerous nuances of everyday life. I didn't care - what I was looking at was a marvel. I don't care what races it won, what solar car competitions have been held since then or anything in regards to solar racing. I am, though, pleased that there are at least people who are interested in the idea of a solar car.

Because I am too.

If I were to design one, it wouldn't look like any solar cars I've seen. Briefly reviewing comments, their designs are very well understood. At the same time, we need to move forward with efforts to make it useful beyond the novel idea of solar car racing if we're to take the energy source seriously.

And it most certainly isn't easy to do; there are a plethora of things to consider when designing such a car, especially how to make it more efficient. One of the things I read a lot in terms of electric cars in general is using regenerative braking. I find it odd so many place an emphasis on it when, to my untrained eye, it appears nearly useless. Well, they aren't that untrained...I think.

Sure, I understand that energy caused while braking may be wasted as heat energy instead of being converted to something more useful. But just how much more useful is it? After all, the process of braking is not that long - is the energy from such a process even worth it? Who knows. I'll look at it for the sake of looking at it but I have no intention at this time of making it a priority. There's a limit to reasonable efficiency, too.

Then there are other components, notably lighting - they either don't have sufficient lighting or try to conserve energy by using LED lights. LEDs are good when used for the right "thing." I can't recommend using LEDs in a vehicular environment unless it's lighting up a "low battery" symbol; that is, the interior of the car should not be forced to use LEDs at all unless it is for indicators or otherwise. It'd be nice to have them as headlights if and only if done properly. I'm not going to compromise safety for power savings. At the same time, I can't consciously compromise its power to conform to what anyone else has done to make it more efficient. It has to be decidedly different because no commercially-sold solar car exists. I suppose that's the reason I'm interested in it.

Who knows, it'd be nice if General Motors read this and was interested in Project Pinwheel. Just what on Earth is it, anyway?