Charge Your EV With A Fake Tree?

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When someone at CleanTechnica first shared the link to Solar Botanic Trees, I wasn’t sure at first what I was looking at. Were they alien trees? Were they a joke? How much power do they produce? But, after looking at the site more, it looks like a serious product that could prove not only aesthetically pleasing, but very useful for renewable energy.

At first, this company reminded me of the “stealth” cell phone towers we see all the time. You know, the ones that are disguised to look like a giant pine tree (there are a few of these in El Paso, where they stick out like sore thumbs), a mutant palm tree, the world’s biggest cylindrical tall hedge, and even church steeples. They try too hard to make these cell towers look like something else, but they still scream, “I’m a cell phone tower!” regardless.

But, Solar Botanic Trees differs in that they aren’t trying to be the master of disguise. They have a tree-like shape, but they’re obviously not a real tree, and aren’t trying at all to look like they’re real. This is better in most ways because they’re not insulting to people who feel like the cell tower company thinks we’re stupid or practically blind.

The next big question I had was how they arrived at the 5 kW figure. 5 kW of solar takes up a lot of space, and the trees in the picture don’t look very big at all. But, the overall size of the trees is 5 meters tall with a canopy 5 meters across. Using (4*pi*r^2)/2, this means a surface area of 39 square meters for the dome part of the tree. At 1000 watts per square meter, that could theoretically come out to 39,000 watts, but with the sun only falling on one side of it at any give time, the 5 kW estimate seems feasible, as it’s only a fraction of the overall hemispherical shape.

But, they do admit that the design has not been built or tested: “The key technology elements of the tree, specifically the photo-voltaic (PV) cells have been lab tested. The next step is to build a field prototype to validate the modelling and lab tests. This will be done at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield for completion in Q1/2023.”

Screenshot from the website.

What I can’t make as much sense of is the company’s plans for after its solar tree gets tested and built. They claim that they’re going to go for a much more realistic-looking tree that harvests not only solar energy, but also heat, rain, and wind energy to produce power. I haven’t talked to the company, but this seems like a very ambitious project to say the least. Not only is it very complex, but makes some claims that are very difficult to verify.

But, their plan of making a solar dome that’s sort of tree-like does seem like it’s a very feasible and achievable project. For some people, it would be preferred over rooftop solar, and may even provide some shade for cars.

Featured Image: A screenshot from Solar Botanic Trees that shows it in use for various applications.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1886 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba