Coach hire companies in Spanish cities like Barcelona are often considered very conservative in their adaptation towards innovations. Financial incentives for innovations were difficult to concretize until not long ago. Now for those Iberian entrepreneurs in the bus rental market that complain about increasing fuel prices (who isn’t?) there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel!
A team from the technical University of Eindhoven (Netherland) have created a test version of a 4 seat solar powered family car that produces 2 times the energy it needs and can drive up to 600 km on a sunny day. This distance is remarkable because it doubles the distance that an electrical car can do with the current technologies. It’s prototype is also remarkable for being very light in weight: it weighs about 1100 kg less than a normal electrical car.
The car (see video) has a remarkable design with a big rooftop which is needed for the solar panels and it’s low by the ground for aerodynamics. The seating is comfortable with cushions and the dashboard very simple with very few buttons. The Dutch highway authority is very close to give this car a license to drive on the street.
In the video here below you can see images of the 1st public test drive of this car:
Improvements of the current model would probably just serve for taxi service in a sunny city like Málaga or Barcelona. It can drive 50 km/per hour all day long on solar power on a sunny day and would use it’s extra battery for transport at higher speed over the highway. Those drivers that do a lot airport transfers between the Barcelona city center and the Barcelona International Airport would off course still need the extra help of batteries.
In a time when electrical powered taxi’s and busses are just about to appear on the streets and energy prices are still rising these are still very good news. Now off course we all can understand that it will be a matter of time before this technology will be moved from just a 4 seater car to a 8 seater van or 12 seater mini bus. Those companies in sunny cities in the south of Spain that tour around with tourists in places like Barcelona, Sevilla or Málaga would love to economize on diesel spending for their fleet.
Off course bus rental companies should be prepared to make a mental shift in ways of traditional design of vans and mini busses versus the new design. If the new comercial mini bus would probably be a variation of the current low-by-the-ground solar car design. The seating would still be very comfortable but be more individual and as it looks now with no space to walk around in the bus. If the owners of coach hire companies are convinced that clients would love to be picked up for their airport transfer at the Barcelona airport to be driven in an eco friendly way to the city center they would be more inclined to add such a vehicle to their fleet. Off course spending less on fuel would make it a much stronger argument as cost reduction is one of the few ways to stay ahead in competition.
The basic facilities on the current model might not be enough for a demanding group of tourists touring Barcelona’s province cava wine yards with extra luggage. Air conditioning and on board entertainment are a must nowadays and so are services such as a on board coffee machine or being able to serve cold drinks. All extra facilities come with extra weight and will be there for reduce the action radius of any touristic version of this solar powered car. So probably it will be used 1st for more common services as a simple transfer betweenBarcelona city and the Barcelona Airport. Groups who plan to hire a coach for a 2 weeks tour around Catalonia will probably still have to wait a few years before being able to board the solar powered bus. We think that tourists will love it because it will make them feel better in leaving less footprint and give them a story to tell about how they have travelled the green way while making a tour in Catalonia. Maybe tourists will even be prepared to travel with less facilities knowing that their travels will have a less negative ecological impact. We, at Rentautobus, will soon start asking our customers to tell us about their green wishes when posting their request for a coach hire quotation on our site.
The solar panels for the car currently only cost about € 3.000 so that sounds OK compared to the high energy savings that this will result in. The car itself now is a costly prototype build as a hand made construction with the use of lightweight aluminum, carbon fiber and probably build.
Once this type of car is taken into production by a manufacturer, prices will level at the average cost of a similar car, van or mini bus of that size. As savings on fuel will be serious, the cost of operations will drop and, off course, the first adapters in the coach hire sector will benefit for a green image that will radiate from using a solar powered vehicle.
Let’s hope that innovative bus builders like the Dutch VDL will follow up with this initiative and soon come up with a solar powered mini bus for comercial use. Maybe it will not be a 100% solar power but even a hybrid solar-diesel bus could bring us serious savings on fuel.
So to all you coach hire entrepreneurs: would you add such a vehicle to your fleet? What would be your list of minimal functionalities on this bus? Which coach hire company in the city of Barcelona do you think will be the 1st one to have this kind of car for it’s daily transport services?
Let us know your comments here below!