Trees are brilliant. They look nice, provide food and homes for animals, soak up carbon, produce oxygen and are very useful to hide under during a sudden rain shower. But here’s something trees can’t do: charge an electric car. Until now.
Say hello to the SolarBotanic Tree, which its makers call a “game-changing sustainable solution” to provide solar energy for EV charging in commercial locations – and could even be used to power houses in the future.
Okay, so it isn’t actually a tree at all. Instead, SolarBotanic has designed a five-metre tall, tree-shaped solar charging array featuring what it says is the world’s first 3D leaf-shaped photovoltaic nanotechnology. There’s also built in battery storage.
The firm claims a single tree can provide the electricity needs of an average household – but an early target is to offer solar power in ‘aesthetically sensitive’ commercial locations, such as car parks at airports and shopping centres.
The first-generation tree has an output of 5kW, but the firm is working on a second-generation version that is connected to the grid features an integrated EV rapid charger. As a result, the electric vehicle charging market – both for homes and business locations – is a key business focus.
SolarBotanic says that the first trees will be available early next year, with the second-generation version due in 2024. There are already plans for a third-generation version, due in 2025, which features a natural-looking tree canopy – with green solar panel leaves, so it looks like a real tree – and has built-in wind generation.
The SolarBotanic Tree has been in development for the last five years, with the firm working with the Co-Innovate business support programme at Brunel University London, the Manufacturing Technology Centre and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.