During the Delta2020 work experience program, Year 11 student Adithya Arun from Comberton Village College explored how bananas can be used for batteries and the furnishing for the interiors of cars, and how wind turbines can be used as the main source of energy to power cars instead of charging them at charging stations, along with some other methods of generating electricity.
The whole world is talking about electric cars being the cars of the future, but there are two major problems. Range, and battery disposal. These two problems can both be solved by using just two of the great things that nature provides us with. I’m talking about bananas and wind.
Wind is all around us. If you move your body, you generate wind. It’s the same with cars. If you drive, you make wind, but don’t let that wind slip away from you, it’s a much better idea to take it with you on your journey. What I’m saying, is that if you put mini wind turbines in the front of your car (where the engine in an Internal Combustion Engine car usually sits), they will spin when you let that wind you just took (for free) and generate electricity to power your car. If the turbines are designed to be efficient enough, you will never need to stop for charging, apart from topping up your car with banana peels occasionally (I’ll talk about this later).
These wind turbines aren’t the same as the ones you see outside, instead they are long, cylindrical objects placed horizontally under the bonnet with long flaps that sit all around the surface of the cylinder, protected by another flap outside where the grille in a petrol/diesel car is. These flaps will be facing the wind directly, allowing the turbine to spin backwards and generate electricity. When there is too much wind, the front outside flap will close to stop the turbine generating too much electricity.
This state-of-the-art solution will eliminate range anxiety, if the wind turbines operate properly. No one is stopping you from using that wind right now, apart from car manufacturers who currently don’t sell cars that do what I just described. This is because they believe it isn’t cost effective as lots of drag is produced, however if the turbines are designed properly to minimise drag as much as possible, this idea could become very popular. Lotus did have a concept called the Nemesis a decade ago with a similar idea, but they never went on to actually mass produce it, I hope they make it in the future. Even if they don’t, I’m planning on doing it anyway when I’m older.
Shifting away from wind, in my opinion, bananas are the things can save our world. I know bananas are an unusual concept, as many people only view them as something to eat, but they have many more potential than just being a food source. There are two components of the total mass that’s produced when you plant a banana tree. One of them is the banana skin, and the other is the immensely strong banana fibre from the tree trunks. A banana peel is especially useful for batteries, because it contains Sodium, Manganese Oxide, and Potassium. The sodium storage performance for banana peel pseudographite is 210 mAh/g which is quite high. Banana peel pseudographite is the name for the carbon structure found in banana peels.
Did you know that 1 banana peel can generate 1.5 volts of energy? When combined together with a large collection of banana peels this would cost around £7-£10 in total, and it is possible to generate the required 400V to 800V needed to power an electric car.
These peels can work together in quantity to make a long-lasting battery, with way more range than lithium-ion batteries. Many people generally buy bananas anyway, which could reduce the need to buy bananas just for the sake of charging the car. You can just go and pick up some bananas from the shop and put them in your battery and, in no time, you’re off on your journey again. However, one downside is that bananas can only store energy for up to 5 days. In the case of this, having the infrastructure to plug in the car to the national grid means that you could be paid for giving electricity to others so that energy from the bananas isn’t wasted. Although, the more logical choice is to use that wasted energy to power your house.
Bananas are not only the saviour for batteries, but also for the materials inside. For the past few decades, car manufacturers have been using a huge amount of plastic that ends up in landfill just a few years later. The solution for this has been sitting in your living room this whole time. It’s banana trees. The process is very simple, you take a banana tree, pass it through a machine, and there you go, you’ve got perfectly separated fibres that can then be woven into plastic, and also a cloth/leather-replacement for the seats which means there’s no more harm to animals.
What do you do when your car is parked, and there aren’t any bananas or there isn’t any wind? How are you going to move the car? My solution is to use lots of different existing methods of generating electricity and also some less well-known methods that may be a bit surprising, while also minimising the need for the battery.
1) When it’s not windy, there’s probably a bit of sun, or sometimes a lot of sun. In this situation, my solution is to put solar panels on the roof, that can generate enough electricity to make your car start moving, and then when it picks up enough speed, the wind made from pushing against the air can take over and generate electricity that way. Solar panels aren’t very good for making cars go far, but they are for short distances which is perfect for my idea.
2) When it’s heavily raining, lots of water is going to splash all over your car and then drip onto the floor. Instead of dripping onto the floor, my idea is to have a water collection system that sits on top of a see-saw-like platform that pours the water on top of a fan that then generates electricity.
3) If the weather is neither windy, sunny, nor rainy, you could have a very small treadmill that you carry along with you in your car and run on when you need electricity. This means you get your daily dose of exercise, while also charging your car.
4) If you’re not keen on doing exercise, my concept is to turn the steering wheel round and round with your hands, while it’s disconnected from the wheels, and then that can generate enough electricity to get you moving and then let the wind take over.
5) If you’re a serious gym-goer, this idea might suit you. Hook up your exercise bike, or any other exercise equipment that has a motor, to your car, and then do as much exercise as you can to charge up the car. Overall, I’m suggesting that we use anything that generates electricity that benefits us or is free to make enough energy to get the car moving, and then let the wind take over.
To sum this up, my idea is to use as many different ways to generate a small amount electricity, and then use the wind turbines as the main source of energy, in combination with the banana peel battery when required. I would also like to use the banana trees to cover seats and as a plastic replacement instead of them being wasted, so you can source car components easily which makes it more much more cost effective.
Adithya Arun, Comberton Village College