Solar Powered Car (Corvair) — not a car using the solar-powered air conditioning system discussed below.
PolyU’s department of electrical engineering, in collaboration with Green Power Industrial, has developed an air conditioning system for cars that utilizes a photovoltaic solar panel to power the air conditioning system when the engine is off.
The solar panel is made of a flexible material so that it can conform to the shape of the car roof, and it charges a battery which, in turn, powers the standalone air conditioning system.
Traditional vehicles use the engine to turn the air conditioner compressor on via a clutch, and the alternator to power the fans. When the air conditioning system is turned on, the clutch (which is attached to the compressor’s rotor) is pressed by an electromagnet against a wheel that is always being turned by the engine (via a belt) and the clutch then turns,… and the clutch finally turns the engine.
One of the touted benefits of this solar-powered setup is reduced air pollution and reduced fuel consumption, because people tend to keep their engines on (in order to keep the A/C on) when waiting in parking lots for their child to get out of school, or maybe while a friend is grabbing a few things in a store, and so on.
Of course, when idling, your fuel economy is actually 0 mpg, since you are burning gas but not actually going anywhere, so all of it (except what is used for the air conditioning) is wasted and lowers your average fuel efficiency.
This system received two awards from the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva this year and the developers of the system claim that they expect widespread deployment of it.