Using printed solar technology for off-grid electric car charging on a journey around the coast of Australia

WHY?

More than a billion people around the world today have no reliable access to electricity. This means that around one in seven people cannot refrigerate food or medicines. They are without a dependable source of electricity to power vital hospital equipment and lack clean, safe energy for cooking and lighting in their homes.

Expanding access to reliable electricity sources via low-cost sustainable energy such as solar power can reduce poverty and inequality. Limiting fossil fuel use can slow climate change.

We passionately believe advances in solar power technology can revolutionise the sustainable energy market making it more accessible to everyone – especially in the most remote parts of the world. Charge Around Australia will demonstrate that printed solar technology can be used to generate renewable energy for off-grid electric car charging on a drive around the coast of the country.

THE PROJECT

Charge Around Australia is a partnership between the UK company Charging Around Britain Ltd and the University of Newcastle, Australia. The project is a challenge to drive an electric vehicle, powered by solar energy, some 9,380 miles (15,097km) around the entire coastline of Australia.

On the journey, we will use portable printed solar cell panels to enable off-grid electric car charging. This innovative solar technology will enable us to harvest free energy from the sun in wilderness stretches along the route where established charging stations are unavailable. 

The technology, known as organic photovoltaics (OPV), is integral to the lightweight solar cells panels that have been developed by Professor Paul Dastoor and his pioneering OPV team at the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics.

The project will demonstrate the capability of the portable solar panels to function successfully on this challenging trip and consequently help to dispel the ‘range anxiety’ currently associated with long-distance journeys in electric vehicles.

Find out more about the team and this exciting new technology here:

THE TEAMTHE TECHNOLOGY

We will be doing much more than just driving. Our project is also designed to educate and support people and organisations, including schools. We aim to shed light on the fact that the future of sustainable power generation for transport and our wider energy requirements is going to be with new technology. Our project will include challenges, experiments, interviews, research and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Roadshow.

The STEM Roadshow will visit remote, rural and regional schools and communities across six Australian states and territories. Students will interact with research scientists who can inspire them by explaining the science behind solar technology and the Charge Around Australia project – and show them how to build their own plastic solar cells using non-toxic, risk-free materials.

In addition to the electric car that we drive around Australia on the journey, we will also use a support vehicle. The latter will double up as the team’s mobile home and act as a field station in which we can run experiments and gather data.

THE TEAM

Project Director and Driving Project Lead

Stuart McBain

Stuart is an entrepreneur and the director of his own well-respected accountancy firm Stuart McBain Ltd. He serves on the Liverpool board of the Institute of Directors and is widely known among the city’s sustainability conscious community. Drawing on broad knowledge gained from more than 40 years of keen interest in sustainable energy, Stuart has advised many organisations.

To date, he has undertaken two successful ‘Charge Around’ challenges to disprove the ‘range anxiety’ associated with electric vehicles, one around the coast of the UK, the other around Iceland’s coastline.

Stuart will research the Charge Around Australia route, identifying key charging stations and stopping off points that offer significant educational and commercial opportunities. He will be the lead driver for the trip.

Research Project Co-ordinator

Professor Paul Dastoor

PhD in Surface Physics, University of Cambridge
BA degree in Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

PhD in Surface Physics, University of Cambridge
BA degree in Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Paul is a physicist and solar energy researcher at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

He has been researching plastics known as semiconducting polymers since the mid-1990s. By breaking these materials down into tiny particles, he has developed a method of suspending them in water and subsequently of producing solar ink or paint that can be printed onto surfaces.

He is currently Director of the Centre for Organic Electronics, which he established at the University of Newcastle, Australia in 2007. The innovative printed solar panels that Paul and his team have developed have the potential to revolutionise sustainable energy generation.

Paul will co-ordinate the research and manage the entire development and installation for the project.

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