You leave your car in the parking lot. When you return, the interior is scorching hot. What do you do? Turn on the AC. Why not harness the sun’s energy instead? The firm ‘Synthesis Design + Architecture’ (SDA) has used this idea to create an exotic new concept, called Pure Tension. This device is a pavilion that is embedded with photo-voltaic panels. The panels convert solar energy into electricity. The power flows “into a portable battery that charges the car”. An examination of its design features brings to the fore its strengths, as well as its drawbacks.
Above is an image of the Pure Tension, showcased with Volvo’s V60 Hybrid Electric Diesel. In terms of design, there are several features of interest. In order to create a lightweight pavilion, engineers at SDA made key choices in material. The surface is made of a vinyl encapsulated polyester mesh membrane. This surface is reinforced by 24 sections of aluminium frame, whose bent profile is achieved by Computer Numerical Control (CNC). It is noteworthy that aluminium is a low-density, durable and sustainable material. The end result is a very lightweight structure, which allows for portability.
Next, the surface is fitted with “a total of 252 flexible photo-voltaic panels”. The panels are arranged in a specific pattern that maximizes exposure to sunlight. As the sun moves across the sky, the panels which generate the least power are “automatically turned off to ensure maximum power generation”. Wires attached to the surface of the pavilion allow power to flow to the battery. In ideal conditions, “450 watts of power” can be generated and an empty car battery can be charged “in about 12 hours”.
The shape of the pavilion is especially striking. Alvin Huang, founder of SDA, had one goal in mind: “to balance utility with beauty”. Engineers at SDA designed the structure’s hyperbolic curves through CAD software. The curves are held in shape by virtue of the carbon fiber ring that borders the structure. The distinct shape gives the Pure Tension an aesthetic appeal, and people would like to have their car covered by this elegant design. This could drive sales should the concept go into production. Another key aspect in design is the fact that the pavilion is collapsible. Due to the flexible structure, one can fold the pavilion completely flat. This facilitates storage as after charging, the folded pavilion can be placed inside the car’s trunk.
The Pure Tension concept is not without certain trade offs. Firstly, the pavilion takes up a huge amount of space to set up. In congested cities where houses are packed closely together, not everyone will have the necessary space to deploy the pavilion. Secondly, the pavilion is not easy to set up either. Estimates show that it takes 3 people and an entire hour to assemble the pavilion. Furthermore, it takes the equal amount of labor and time for disassembly, too. Compared to other methods of charging, this represents a great inconvenience. Thirdly, a high price might prevent this technology to be implemented on a large scale. The production methods of manufacturing this intricately shaped structure are not the simplest or cheapest, and as a consequence, not everyone might be able to afford the Pure Tension.
The Pure Tension pavilion is an innovative take on solar-powered charging. SDA has created a concept that is functional, aesthetically appealing and sustainable. However, it must become less space consuming, easier to use and cheaper to produce before it can go commercial.