July 4, 2007 Solar-powered cars and boats are all very well; they've got a lot of surface area to exploit with photovoltaic panels. When it comes to developing a solar-powered motorcycle, though, Spain's sunRED had to get a little more creative. Sliding panels on this soon-to-be-built prototype roll back to give the rider access to the seat, and form a complete cocoon around the bike when it's parked. Featuring some other interesting innovations, the sunRED prototype could make a practical short-range commuter, with a range of 13 miles and a top speed around 30mph. It's interesting to look at too, in a "Tron meets an armadillo" sort of way - but I'd hate to see the damage bill if it falls over.
sunRED's prototype solar scooter will have a photovoltaic surface of around 3.1 square metres when the panels are fully deployed. When retracted, they'll continue to soak up sun and charge the bike, although at a reduced rate. See the photo gallery for a demonstration of how the panels retract.
Its dash will feature an LCD touch screen showing information on energy consumption, range and load as well as speed, odometer and trip meter readouts. The motor is mounted in the front wheel hub, eliminating the need for a transmission and the associated power losses to squeeze out a better range from the available power.
A 13 mile range could make the sunRED prototyle a decent commuter in sunny urban areas, although no information is given on how long it needs to sit in the sun to charge to full, how it could be charged overnight (leave the garage light on?) or if there's an alternative charging method available if you run out of juice on the go.
Clearly solar transport is still in a development stage, but as a totally free and environmentally neutral form of energy, we think it's worth encouraging.