Students from the World University of Design have developed a cooling panel that leverages solar power to control the cabin heating of vehicles
The constant uptick in vehicles has led to congestion across leading urban city centres of the world, thus causing environmental harm as well as leading to the gradual heating of the earth’s surface. Divyam Rawal, a student of Sonipat-based World University of Design and his team, identified the car air-conditioner as one of the major heat contributors for global warming and subsequently buckled down to the task of designing an innovative environmentally-friendly product that keeps a check on car temperature using solar energy, and thereby reduce carbon footprint.
The growing disposable income at the hands of individuals is fuelling aspirations to attain a comfortable standard of living, especially for a country like India. Owning a vehicle is often considered to be a matter of pride, fulfilling aspirations of a young population. The increasing vehicle population, on the other hand, is leading to pollution and is contributing to rising temperatures across the world. Further, the use of air-conditioners also generates an enormous amount of heat from the cars, adding further to the environment heating-up.
Divyam and his team have developed a solar-powered car cooling panel that aims to limit the heat that is often formed inside the car during summer days. Developed in less than three months, the panel utilises the Peltier effect concept to control the temperature inside the vehicle. The trapped heat is converted into energy using the solar panel placed on the vehicle roof, which is later utilised to operate the module. Although the main function of the Peltier effect is cooling, it can be controlled to offer ambient driving conditions, said Divyam.
The internal architecture of the air-conditioner contains the Peltier module and uses aluminium, plastic as well as copper to create the panel that offers ambient conditions for a comfortable driving environment. The Peltier module generates a temperature difference by transferring the heat between two electrical junctions. It applies certain voltage across joint conductors to create electric current and it is during this current flow that the heat is removed at one junction and cooling occurs at the other. The system stays operational using the energy from solar panel until the desired temperature is achieved, said Divyam. The solar-powered car cooling panel is available in two variants to suit customer demand – one is placed right below the car dashboard while the other is placed under the roof.
One of the biggest challenges Divyam and his team faced during the product development phase was the engineering and design collaboration. And to ensure the special Arduino coding remained confidential, Divyam needed a reliable team that was willing to manage the equation of study schedules and project development. Managing time to participate in competitions was becoming difficult as such projects involve a lot of steps – brief, research, followed by redefined brief, mood board, sketching, brainstorming ideation, etc, said Divyam. The overall estimated cost of the project is approximately ` 7,000, excluding the panel cost. The team continues to grapple with sponsorship problems to develop the beta prototype, said Divyam.
The solar-powered car cooling panel tends to improve the car mileage, as the vehicle does not have to depend on its own air-conditioner to attain ambient driving conditions. As and when the temperature starts to increase, the device starts itself again and aims to achieve the desired temperature without wasting energy. According to Divyam, the panel reduces the vehicle’s dependence on battery and can be used as a jump starter, when the car battery gets discharged. The user can set a specified temperature, which remains controllable in the module via mobile app or the unit display and can also use it as a speaker for entertainment, said Divyam.
Divyam and his team have participated in various competitions such as KPIT Sparkle, James Dyson as well as Aakurti Design Contest conducted by Dassault Systèmes, where they presented their innovative ideas and were widely appreciated. The innovations carried out by Divyam and his team are indeed the need of the hour, as the world looks at various options to reduce CO2 emissions. It has become increasingly important for various stakeholders, right from the academia to automotive giants to collaborate as well as develop solutions that can pave the way for greener mobility.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja