Volvo has revealed a remarkable solar panel design for their new hybrid electric vehicle. The solar panels unfurl from the trunk of the car and look similar to a pair of wings. The design will be included in Volvo’s V60 Hybrid vehicle.
Volvo has partnered with California’s Synthesis Design and Architecture in designing these new solar devices.
Synthesis principal and USC professor Alvin Huang is an experienced researcher of dynamic mesh relaxation, a design method pioneered by Frei Otto in the 1960s. Huang and others further developed the method into the complex, visually striking structure seen above.
Both digital and analog techniques were used in the design process. Digital tools allowed for fast mockups, and physical models were used to test the materials: the carbon fiber frame, mesh surface, and solar panels themselves.
The iterative exchange between the parallel digital and analog models allowed us to further refine design technique, and perhaps more importantly, design intuition, in terms of achieving desired effects. (Alvin Huang)
After the design was finalized, engineering firms integrated the visual, structural, and electrical components of the design.
But before the work was complete, the team still needed to adjust the solar components to enhance efficiency. Because the mobile pavilion can be placed in a large variety of locations, it’s impossible to know any exact amounts of sunlight it can capture.
Charging process currently takes about 12 hours, although this can vary based on available light.
It is definitely an experimental process that is a challenge given the timeframe and amount of R&D required. We have produced annual solar incidence studies to determine which parts of the skin will achieve the highest solar gains in any site in any orientation. (Alvin Huang)
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