In years to come, we’ll probably think about solar energy quite differently than we do now. For one, it will be a lot cheaper, making it something for everyone, not just relatively affluent homeowners (it’s already a lot less pricey than it was). And two, it will probably be a lot more distributed. As well as panels on a roof, we might have solar cells integrated into our windows and walls, and perhaps even painted onto consumer goods. If current research plays out as expected, it’s all coming.
And if solar cells can be painted on walls, then why not on cars? Take a look at this Mercedes concept car, the G-Code, which is covered in a “multi-voltaic silver” paint. It’s like a solar panel on very fast wheels. Moreover, according to the manufacturer, it also captures energy from electrostatic created when wind meets the surface. Mercedes says this power could be used to produce on-board hydrogen or methane, an efficient way to store renewable energy that would otherwise go to waste.
Though feasible in a lab, none of this is possible at the moment. Mercedes’s press release is written in the present tense, but no actual car exists, even in prototype or model form. Which is a shame.
“The technical visions in the G-Code clearly incorporate quite fantastical aspects and by no means raise the claim of wanting to pave the way for specific future technologies to enter into mass production,” says spokesperson Stefan Schuster. “But the G-Code describes ways that our grandchildren might one day consider the state of the art.”
Hopefully, most of us won’t have to wait till our grandchildren are driving to see something like G-Code, or indeed solar cells on every surface.