Human-solar powered car ready for the road

December 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
An engineering professor and his students at San Jose State University have developed the very latest in zero emissions vehicles. The group has gone beyond electric and into a whole new realm of green transportation.

Dr. Tai-Ran Hsu, Ph.D., is behind the wheel of his dream car. He and his students spent the last two years designing and developing an electric vehicle that uses both human and solar power.

"This is probably the first project that involves solar energy in a mobile system," says Dr. Hsu.

The car has a uniquely integrated system. The electric motor is driven by clean power silicone batteries and those batteries can be charged by traditional plug-in electric or by four solar panels on the roof and hood. They work while driving or parked.

"We have a switch that you can choose from charging electric AC output and the solar," says Yusuf Ali, a SJSU engineering student.

Four fully charged batteries can last up to 60 miles. There is also the human powered aspect of the car. There was a first prototype, but adding the solar element made it an award winning design and the winner of a $15,000 national prize.

Using the electric motor the car can go about 35 mph. The design team envisions the pedal power being used in highly congested urban areas.

The target market includes places like China, India, and Mexico, but also as a replacement for utility and postal delivery vehicles everywhere. The professor and students say it's ready for mass production.

"Engineers and people who are involved in manufacturing will understand this. We really have to reach out to the consumers and really the consumers are the ones we have to convince," said Reena Obediah, a SJSU engineering student.

In case the big three CEO's are listening, the San Jose State invention is called a Human Hybrid Powered Vehicle and would sell for about $4,000.

"I certainly would be more than happy to talk to them and invite them to try our cars," said Dr. Hsu.

The City of San Jose is already impressed and plans to honor the engineering team next week.


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