Volvo portable solar pavilion could power plug-ins of the future
By C.C. Weiss
July 18, 2013
"How am I going to prevent that battery from dying on my trip?" It's a sentiment that's been echoed again and again, even by the most ardent EV early adopters, and certainly by the auto consuming public at large. With only 100 miles (161 km) of battery power on a good day, and few charging stations along most routes, the fear of sputtering out on the highway is real and pervasive. With help from a collaborative of designers and architects, Volvo shows one possible solution – a collapsible, carport-sized solar charging pavilion named Pure Tension.
Created by Synthesis Design + Architecture, Buro Happold and Fabric Images, the Pure Tension Volvo Pavilion will be fully revealed in Rome on September 15. It took home first place in the Switch to Pure Volvo Pavilion Design Competition, sponsored by Volvo Car Italia and The Plan magazine. The competition tasked designers with creating pavilions for display at outdoor fairs and events, and the Pure Tension design beat out 150 other submissions from around the world thanks to its "visual impact," "high quality," and "advancement of technology through form, materials, and functionality."
The Pure Tension is an interesting portable solar charging kit that's deployed over the top of Volvo's V60 plug-in hybrid. The "free-standing tensioned membrane structure" is created from a tensioned HDPE mesh skin with embedded photovoltaic panels inside a carbon fiber frame. The pavilion holds its shape by the equilibrium created by the carbon fiber rods stretching out and tensioned mesh pulling in. It plugs directly into the V60, delivering electricity collected from sun or artificial lighting.
According to Synthesis, the Pure Tension is easy to set up and break down, and it compacts into a tent-sized bag small enough to fit inside the V60's trunk. The basic materials can create pavilions in a multitude of forms and sizes for display at dealerships, demonstrations and car shows.
While the Pure Tension is designed as a pavilion, it's easy to imagine it as the jumping off point for a consumer solar charger, a portable solar carport of sorts. Its highly stretchable design means that it could be transported in the car, but offers many more solar cells than rooftop systems available on cars like the Fisker Karma. Park your plug-in car in a parking lot with sufficient space and sun, and the tensioned solar charger recharges the battery while the car is parked.
The Pure Tension is just a concept, however, and its designers haven't provided any information on how much electricity it produces. Many a concept and design study looks great on paper and display, but disappears shortly thereafter. We don't anticipate this one becoming a reality anytime soon, but hopefully we'll learn a little more about it in September.