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Solar cell made on labeling machine to power Tesla across Australia

A gif showing solar cells being printed in a factory.

Is printing solar panels or wine labels a better use for this machine?
GIF: Load around Australia

One of the biggest complaints people have about the benefits of electric cars is that they will still contribute to global emissions as long as the electricity they use is not produced in a clean way. And sure, they do, but the emissions per mile on an electric vehicle are far lower than your average gas-powered car.

But scientists around the world are always ready to make things better, and that includes developing much cleaner and more efficient ways to generate the electricity we need to power all our things. And that brings us to a group of Australian scientists working on something quite exciting.

A team of scientists from Newcastle University in Australia are working on a much cheaper way to make solar panels and have come up with a ambitious way of presenting their results.

The team, led by Paul Dastoor, is working on a new solar panel that can be printed using a commercial printer.

Specifically, these new signs are made using a wine labeling machine. Building the panels this way makes them much cheaper than traditional solar cells, at just AU$10 per meter. It’s about $2 per foot.

As it stands, the solar cells have an efficiency of about two percentbut the team is aiming for at least four percent cell efficiency. They also hope to build the power packs using organic electronics technology to ensure they are fully renewable.

A photo of a Tesla Model 3 electric car.

Scientists will take Tesla out of the new technology later this year.
Photo: You’re here

This is an ambitious goal for scientists and that gets even more ambitious when you hear how they want to show off the new technology.

That’s because Newcastle University scientists are planning a road trip around Australia in an electric vehicle that will be powered solely by the electricity produced on these panels.

According to ReutersPaul Dastoor and his team will take a Tesla on a 9,400 mile trip across Australia later this year. The trip will start in Newcastle and stop in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

Double charging around australia, the trip will see the team travel for 84 days on solar power alone. Along the way, they hope to overcome people’s anxiety around driving electric cars.

To do this, they will carry a solar panel 18 meters (60 feet) long in the trunk of a Tesla electric car. At each charging stop, the solar cells will be unwound to absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity.

The team says it will take six hours for the solar cells to fully charge the car’s batteries.

But why are these printed solar cells better than the ones we have, although they are much less efficient?

Well, in a blog post on the project website, Dr Benjamin Vaughan of Newcastle University explained that it all depends on the weight of the panels.

Although they require a larger panel area to generate the electricity they need, using printed panels means that the weight of it all would be considerably less than using traditional solar cells.

“It makes it easier to transport them during the trip. They also roll up, so we use less space, which is convenient,” he explained.