Researchers stick solar cells on a Tesla: now it’ s supposed to circle Australia with them

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Written By Marc Helman

Tackling new challenges with a passion for the environment.

Scientists at Australia’s University of Newcastle have successfully tinkered with 3D-printed solar cells for years. Now they want to prove that these solar panels are also efficient – by sending a Tesla vehicle on a 15,000-kilometer journey.

The researchers are currently testing printed solar panels that they plan to use to power a Tesla on a 9382 miles journey this September. As part of the “Charge Around Australia” project, a Tesla vehicle will be on the road with a total of 18 printed plastic solar cells to charge the vehicle while it is stationary. 

The printed solar cells can be rolled up for driving, and when unrolled, they are each 18 meters long.

Paul Dastoor, the inventor of the printed solar panels, tells Reuters news agency that the Newcastle University team wanted to test the endurance of the panels and their potential performance for other applications.

Less than $10 per 10.7 square foot

“In fact, this is an ideal test bed to give us insight into how we could use and power the technology in other remote locations, such as in space,” Dastoor told Reuters.

The printed solar cells are made of lightweight, laminated PET plastic that can be produced at the cost of less than $10 per 10.7 square foot. The cells are printed using a commercial printer originally used to print wine labels.

Dastoor hopes that using the panels as a car’s power source could get Australians thinking more about electric vehicles and help ease their range anxiety. “[The] community is looking for these kinds of answers to the problems they face every day around climate change,” the solar printing inventor said.

During the 84-day journey, during which the E-car will travel the entire Australian coastline, the project team plans to visit about 70 schools to give students a glimpse of what the future might have in store.