Friday, February 10, 2012

Solar Goes Mainstream with Military Grade Solar Panels for Golf Carts

When the U.S. military and the sport of golf take on solar power, that’s a certain indication that solar is crossing over from a fringe curiosity to a solid pillar of the U.S. energy community. A company called PowerFilm, Inc. has found a way to pull those two forces together and accelerate the trend to mass consumer interest in solar technology, by teaming up with the electric vehicle manufacturer E-Z-­GO® to offer a custom military-grade snap-on solar panel system for golf carts and electric cars. The product is set to launch in February.

The U.S. military as a green marketing hook

In its promotional material for its partnership with E-Z-GO, PowerFilm notes that the new snap-on PowerFilm Solar Panel is designed and manufactured to military specifications. That’s a nifty shorthand for positioning the product as durable, reliable, and high-functioning, and PowerFilm has the track record to back it up. The company’s signature Power Shade product, a solar-enabled field tent, was originally designed for the Army, and the company recently won a $5.5 million grant from the Army Research Laboratory to develop a rugged, solar powered electronic display for field use.

Green ambassadors from golf and the military

Though its tempting to think of golf and the military as two examples of tradition-bound cultural icons, both have a rich tradition of innovation when it comes to high tech equipment, so they can play a significant role in putting the cultural seal of approval on new green technology. PowerFilm and E-Z-GO aren’t alone in recognizing the power of a military-related boost for new technology products; the major home building company Meritage Homes, for example, recently launched a line of high tech energy efficient models with a testimonial from an Air Force veteran.

A growing market for solar-powered electric vehicles

In addition to golf cart fleets, the snap-on solar panel system will be applied to E-Z-GO vehicles that can be used for low-speed travel in retirement communities, gated communities, industrial facilities, and other settings. The military connection extends to E-Z Go’s parent company Textron, so it’s a pretty good likelihood that you’ll see solar-powered golf carts and other small, low-speed vehicles tooling around military facilities, too.

Don’t forget the plug-in EVs!

As conceived by PowerFilm, the new solar panel doesn’t fully replace conventional power for charging up a golf cart battery, but it does help reduce battery charging costs, improve battery life, and extend the range of the vehicle. If the primary charge for the battery comes from a stationary solar array, then you have a 100 percent solar powered vehicle. That’s already on the way in both the military and civilian sectors. For example, Nellis Air Force Base has a project underway to introduce plug-in electric vehicles into its ground fleet along with a major new solar panel array, and SolarCity has launched an electric vehicle charging station package with its home solar panel installations.


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