The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder

News: Scientist predicts death of the petrol station as drivers chase the sun

A scientist has forecast that petrol stations could soon be a thing of the past as everyone begins driving solar-powered cars.


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THE CURRENT holder of the World Solar Challenge looks more like a miniature aircraft carrier than a car and averaged only 56mph between the hours of 8am and 5pm, over the 2,000-mile route in Australia.

However, undeterred by its extreme design, and the largely favourable climate the record-breaking, single-seater car enjoyed, a scientist at this week’s Hay Festival has forecast that petrol stations could soon be a thing of the past as everyone begins driving solar-powered cars.

Keith Barnham, emeritus professor of physics at Imperial College, London, told festivalgoers that solar panel technology is improving at such a rate that motorists will be able to draw enough power to fuel their vehicles using the sun’s rays.

He said that his department was already producing solar panels that are three times as efficient as models currently on the market. Crucially, for vehicles not wanting to look like aircraft carriers, he said the new panels work vertically and can be inserted into windows or made into blinds.

“A typical solar panel system will generate enough electricity for typical mileage in a year,” Barnham said. “Even Jeremy Clarkson couldn’t argue with that.”