"Many land, water and airborne electric vehicles harvest all the energy they need. They never plug in. It is the way of the future", says IDTechEx Chairman Dr Peter Harrop. "As Solar Impulse goes around the world on nothing but sunshine, it follows the big boat Turanor which did the same. Boeing is preparing drones that stay up for five years on nothing but sunshine and the VineRobot will monitor European vineyards in the same way. Northrup Grumman has airships that do it. Indeed large Kopf Solarschiff boats cross the lakes of Germany on nothing but sunshine, yet this is just the beginning."
He counsels that there is scope for even these craft to use wind and other energy as well. All this is scoped in the new IDTechEx report, High Power Energy Harvesting 2016-2026 which examines provision of off-grid electricity using ambient energy. Edison said, "Make electricity where you will use it." Nowadays, that almost always means long-life, renewable energy with zero pollution at point of use. Vehicles garner it in seconds in some cases such as the new energy harvesting shock absorbers - 50kW each in an electric train - and the familiar Denso and Siemens regenerative braking and Electraflyer plane soaring and landing both creating electricity from the propeller going backwards.
The trick works for hours in other cases, including the propeller going backwards to provide kilowatts on a large sea-going Rensea or Beneteau sailing boat. Solar energy and using heat difference in hybrid vehicles thermoelectrically (eg Yamaha) is also a longer duration phenomenon at kilowatts. Self-cleaning photovoltaics across the whole vehicle is a prospect from the University of Milan.
Electric boats and ships will use the new tethered multicopters from Enerkite, TwingTec and others that produce 10kW or more for hours. Some technologies already turn wave energy into kilowatts of electricity as will the e-textile solar sails planned by the European Powerweave project and the UK University of Bolton. Spray-on photovoltaics is being developed at the University of Toronto for vehicles by land, water and air. Coordinating the different technologies means some charge the vehicle batteries when it is not in use, others when it is travelling and others when it is stopping. They can leverage each other: a wind turbine could wash an adjoining solar panel when it is raining. The new printed thermoelectrics can have printed solar on top of it.
There are wild cards such as the new wind turbines with no blades: they look like reeds swaying in the wind. Magnetostrictive wave harvesting is being trialled. High power energy harvesting is in a state of rapid change and most of it will benefit electric vehicles by land, water and air - on-road, off-road, underwater, on-water, unmanned, manned - all will be transformed. The total market is forecasted in all its detail only in the IDTechEx report, Electric Vehicle Forecasts, Trends and Opportunities 2015-2025.
Attend the IDTechEx conferences Electric Vehicles Everything is Changing and Energy Harvesting and Storage November 18-19 Santa Clara California.
top image of VineRobot source: VineRobot