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Scientists predict the end of petrol stations

Advances in solar technology could render petrol stations obsolete sooner than expected, scientists believe.

The technology for free fuel already exists, we just need to use it, according to boffins. Keith Barnham, emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College London, said advances in harnessing solar energy by his team could end the need for petrol stations sooner than we think. 

Solar energy to render petrol stations obsolete in the future
Solar energy to render petrol stations obsolete in the future

Barnham’s team is understood to be using materials that are more flexible than the cumbersome panels of today, not to mention three times more effective than today's technology. The panels can be mounted vertically, and can therefore be used in window frames and blinds, which can simultaneously reduce the glaring light into a room and capture the energy of the sun’s rays. 

Currently solar panels offer between five and 20 watts per metre squared of energy which is high in comparison to other renewable energies, such as wind (2.5W/m²) or biofuel (0.5W/m²). By having cheap energy at home, electric vehicles would be a more attractive option and could spell the end for petrol stations.

However, critics of solar power say other options, such as nuclear power, are still more favourable, producing 1000W/m² of energy. David Mackay, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Physics at Cambridge University points out in one TED talk that in order to generate enough energy from solar to power Britain without oil, we would need an area three and half times the size of Wales – and that’s without considering the increasing uptake of electric vehicles.

Professor Barnham is positive, however. He commented that technology already exists to offer motorists free fuel for their electric cars, by way of solar energy. He believes the technology just needs to be bought.

Later this month, Tesla Motors is expected to open its first Supercharger station, offering Tesla customers free recharging, from energy generated from solar power.

 

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