The world is changing in some big ways. 2019 was the second-hottest year on record according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a climate monitoring organization formed by the European Union.
Climate change is starting to affect many different aspects of people’s lives, and the effects can be seen in recent events such as the Australian bushfires, which many scientists believe climate change is, in large part, responsible for.
Reducing CO2 emissions is one of the best ways to combat climate change, and here at Weber State University, steps have been taken for the campus to be carbon neutral by the year 2050.
Creating a cleaner and healthier environment is what Dr. Andy Schoenberg, a Professor Emeritus in the College of Engineering at the University of Utah, who has worked on projects such as the artificial heart and the artificial hand, wants to do with the Sunzeecar, a solar-powered electric car he has built with the intention to provide affordable and clean transportation.
“This is a retirement project for him, a legacy project that is his own and it’s not university affiliated, it’s hand built and he designed it,” said Chris Harris, a friend of Schoenberg’s, who has helped him with the Sunzeecar project.
The Sunzeecar, a solar-powered, three-wheeled vehicle that is street legal in Utah, fits two people, has zero emissions, regenerative braking, eight horsepower and a maximum speed of 45 mph. The creators estimate the range on a full charge is 50 miles at 40 mph.
“More than half of Americans only drive 11 miles a day. This means one solar panel is enough to take care of more than half of Americans’ transportation needs, and that’s our message,” Harris said.
The Sunzeecar can be plugged into just a regular wall outlet and charges in a few hours. The battery pack will then be ready to power the Sunzeecar another 50 miles.
“You can plug it into the wall. I’ve used extension cords to get it out to the street, you can plug it in the garage or the side of the house, very easy,” Harris said.
Harris and Schoenberg have some short term goals for the project, one of which is getting the Sunzeecar to the United Nations Youth Conference in New York.
“I help Andy in his shop, I do promote it, and hopefully, if things go well, I will be taking it up to the United Nations Youth Conference — they are meeting up in New York City at the end of February,” Harris said. “We will also be presenting at the Sustainability Conference here at Weber State in March.”
The long-term goal for their project is to provide affordable and clean transportation to anybody who wants it. The design of the Sunzeecar is so that it can be easy to ship and for people to assemble it themselves.
“This whole project can be a kit. We can send you this in a box; this can be easy for anyone to assemble,” Harris said.
As they present the Sunzeecar at different venues and universities, they hope that this will inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators to continue to build off this technology and continue to find great new ways of affordable clean energy and transportation.
“The bright engineers that are being trained now have tools that nobody could’ve even imagined twenty year ago. We’re in the process of this new technology being handed off so that younger people can feel inspired and have hope for a more efficient, affordable future,” Harris said.