Frequently Asked Questions
The following are answers to some of the most common questions and concerns. If you feel an answer is incomplete, or not well explained, please comment so we can make changes.
Q: Why solar thermal power?
A: Solar thermal power is one of the few energy sources that can be made by almost anyone for a very low cost. Solar thermal power is extremely efficient at creating high heat to pasturize water to make it potable and for cooking food. For this reason, it is extremely useful in developing countries. Furthermore, most places that have food and drinking water shortages are also located in hot, dry areas where solar thermal power works the best. Solar thermal power can provide all energy needs from basic heat needs to complex electrical needs.
Q: Why make a solar thermal car?
A: A solar thermal car has much more strict design constraints for weight, power, strength and aerodynamics than a stationary system. If a homemade solar thermal car system can be built, then a stationary system should be proven to be much easier in comparison. It is hoped that we can travel with the solar thermal car to motivate and educate people on how to build their own stationary systems.
Q: If the solar thermal car is so cheap and easy to build why aren't there companies that sell them?
A: This question is asked a lot. A solar thermal car is not commercially viable. It is very big, slow and needs to be charged a lot, and is therefore, not a marketable product. It is not a reliable form a transportation for people with schedules, as it is impeded by cloud cover and cannot travel great distances very quickly. It is perfect for our purposes of traveling slowly and without environmental impact, but it is not something that would appeal to most.
Q: Why don't you patent it?
A: As far as we know, the design isn't even patentable. The systems being used are old technologies that are simply being applied in new ways. Furthermore, the purpose of this research is not to create another hoarded technology or one that can be bought and suppressed. The technology has, and always will be, developed to help people and as such, all designs will be open to the public and will never be sold.
Q; Why hasn't solar thermal power been developed in the past if it is so easy?
A: The answer is very simple; money. There is no money to be made spending years designing and testing a homemade solar power device, to not be able to patent it and sell it at the end. Alex has spent about 2 years designing this full time using only his own money and receiving no compensation. He and his wife have part time jobs to support the testing. He feels the budget constraints really help him build the cheapest system possible and allows him to explore many different low cost options, such as using free, used car parts.
Q: Why not just use solar panels?
A: It is assumed that a solar panel is environmentally friendly and is fastidiously marketed as such, but there are a number of drawbacks that are not often considered. Solar panels have the distinct disadvantage of being impossible to make at home. A solar panel must be manufactured in a factory, most likely abroad, out of precious and semi-precious materials, many of which are not renewable. These materials, in fact, are mined to the detriment of the surrounding environment. The machinery required for the mining and production create an enormous carbon footprint, not to mention the environmental cost of shipping them across oceans in large inefficient ships. Outside of its environmental deficits, it is impossible for the average person to fix a broken solar panel, and the cost of setup and the accompanying electrical components is a deterent for some, and for others, makes this technology entirely unattainable. The benefit of solar thermal over solar voltaic (panels) is its efficient use of heat and it's accesiblity and easy maintenance for all. Solar thermal does not lose efficiency like solar panels by taking sunlight, converting it inefficiently to electricity, and converting the electricity back into heat for a stove or home heating systems. Solar thermal systems make full use of the sun's natural heat, making it an excellent, natural way to heat homes, water etc, while at the same time being able to create electricity as well.
Q: What future would you like to see for this technology?
A: It is hoped that in the next few years more and more people build their own solar thermal power. It is hoped that places in need worldwide can build this technology to improve their circumstances. It is hoped that we stop relying on fossil fuels and dirty electricity. We envision “sun gas stations” in the desert with small solar thermal power plants behind them to charge electric cars. We envision each house having its own energy system and contributing to a free electrical grid.
Last edited: 11/03/2014