another one for steve
Are you saying that solar cells should not be left in the sun because they degrade? Now that is a ridiculous thing to say! They're designed to be left in the sun!
So i'm not suggesting these should be retrofitted to existing cars, that would be pointless. New cars (whether hybrid like the Prius or pure electric like the Tesla) will need to be fitted with adequate spare charging capacity so that as much energy as possible is stored from the cells when the car is not in use.
Unfortunately the Prius does not do this, whenever the petrol engine is in use it's charging the battery to its max (a big downfall i think as this is inefficient, the energy would be better off being used to propel the car).
So my main points are these (and i don't think anyone can disagree with them):
Firstly, it must be demonstrated that car solar panel manufacture takes up less energy than they generate in their average lifespan.
Secondly, cost to the consumer is not a necessary consideration. Think catalytic converters. Mandatory, they add several hundred pounds to the cost of a new car, they REDUCE fuel efficiency (by necessitating an increase in the fuel/oxygen ratio therefore more fuel is used) and they do nothing (except cost money) for the individual driver. They only act on mass to improve air quality.
Thirdly, i therefore see no reason why this concept can not become reality at some point. It will eventually save money for the driver as compared to other mandatory car features.
I agree that putting them on houses will use the cells more optimally than cars though. But i'm afraid household electricity prices are going to have to be in the same realms of petrol prices to make them economical. Something that WILL happen in time if no one does anything about it, we are after all at peak oil production.
Either that or hybrids are going to have to become 'Plugin' so that you can use the energy from your house solar cells to charge your car. This involves adding more battery energy storage to extend their range and also increasing the top speed at which they run solely on electric. The problem with this is that cars are usually away from home when the cells are producing most energy. The energy has to then be sold to the grid for (cheekily) less than you buy it back. someone needs to do something about that.
Car manufacturers seem a little scared of producing plugin hybrids probably because the amount we rely on petrol might crash, the government would earn less tax and influencial oil giants would lose money.
As for your suggestion of having fields of panels tracking the sun to optimise efficiency. Not good for the UK where we're struggling for space. I doubt it'd get past planning either. Great for the sahara though, but then you'd lose a lot of energy transporting it thousands of miles.
how's your patent going?