Battery Plant for Chevy Volt Comes to Brownstown

An industrial park off of Sibley Rd. in Brownstown Township will be the site of a new Chevy Volt battery plant. The plant expects to employ 600 people and brings a $43 million investment to the area.

I’ve been holding out getting a new car because I know the options will only increase. I want to see as many new hybrids as possible. I get attached to my cars. It isn’t likely I would buy now and again in a few years so I’m hanging in there, waiting, and I’ve always liked the Volt.

So in the meantime, I’m looking at solar panels too—to power the Volt. I wondered how many solar panels and how much. When I searched solar panels, which I haven’t done for awhile, I was amazed at the array of sites that are already hawking “Cheap Solar Panels!” There are so many solar panels offered now from 5 watts up to 230 that I needed to find the amount of wattage I would need for the Volt because I could literally tailor my needs specifically for it. As I expected, I found that other people were thinking about solar panels and beyond for these cars.

I ran into a really good Chevy Volt forum that had calculations. Unfortunately some of the people’s answers were erroneous like the cost of solar, and outdated like the amount of wattage per size of panel. Solar has really advanced from just a year ago. An answer in the forum had an 80-watt panel at around 6 X 9 size. And there was something about lack of efficiency for solar. Solar is so very efficient at least in small applications. I’ve got solar powered fountains around my house and there is definitely power in the sun.

Sharp has managed to harness that power in its 230-watt panels. According to what I read, 3 panels, around 700 watts total, would be enough to recharge the Volt. The panels are a little over 3 X 5 ft. and weigh 44 lbs each. At $824.00 each on the Affordable Solar website it would mean around $2500 to keep the Volt powered for the life of the car. If that’s 10 years like some of my cars, it would mean $250.00 per year in costs to recharge my car this way. If I kept the car only 5 years, it would be $500 in annual costs. I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t drive much and I know I still put $75/mo in my tank or more. This solar car powered scenario is looking good.

However, there are other things I read about that need be done to simplify the recharging process for the Volt to use solar power. There needs to be a transition from DC output of solar to AC for the car. This is what affects the efficiency of solar. One man in the forum suggested that DC ports be put into the cars themselves to simplify recharging from solar. It would eliminate the energy wasted in transition to A/C. And someone named Steve Brown a junior member in this Volt forum was thinking beyond:

I like the idea of solar carports in parking lots, charging the batteries of cars parked under them. Imagine coming back to your car and finding that not only is the battery charged for the trip home, but the car is not the oven it would have been if exposed to the sun all day. That will save additional energy that would have been used by the air conditioner to cool the car down to a tolerable temperature. On a sunny day, a single carport could provide the 8 kilowatt hours of energy to bring the Volt battery up to full nominal charge, so you could drive up to 40 miles to work and 40 miles home without using gasoline.

To make this happen, the Volt should have a DC charging port, a connector to plug in a direct current source of power. That would enable the solar cells to feed energy more or less directly into the Volt’s battery, eliminating the waste of energy that would occur, and expense of inverters, if the direct current from the solar cells has to be converted to 120 VAC.

This is the type of thinking that spurs innovation where we improve and improve and improve on an idea if we can just get moving for CHANGE. I remember working on a desktop computer in 1974. Quite a step up from the ole keypunch machine I operated. Those mammoth, costly goliaths were gone quickly, giving way to the mammoth, costly MAIN FRAME housed in its own room. My desktop back then was directly connected to that mammoth main frame. The efficiency was horrible. We would come in some Monday mornings to find everything we inputted—dumped over the weekend. Therefore, we still processed everything via 5-6 carbon copy pages on a typewriter and then inputted the same info into the new computer system. That was at U of M hospital’s personnel department in the 70′s.

The same thing was said about computers back then as we are saying about alternative energy now, that it can’t be done quickly, it is costly, it involves more man hours than not so it is inefficient, there is no infrastructure for it, and that it was unreliable. Look where we are now. I don’t doubt that the paint or coating on our cars will fuel them as well some day in the future, but first we need to just get moving in another direction.

Battery Plant Story: http://www.wwj.com/GM-Picking-Brownstown-For-Battery-Plant-/4822874.

Solar Panels: http://www.affordable-solar.com/solar.panels.htm.

Volt Forum: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?t=696.

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