A New Route
Aztec Solar Power is revolutionizing how locals “fuel up” their vehicles
by Bill Donahue

Recent innovations such as the Powermat, which uses a special mat to wirelessly charge cell phones, MP3 players and other handheld accessories, have forever changed how people use technology. A similar advancement is now in development locally, only this homegrown wonder will be used to power up your car rather than your iPod.


Local company Momentum Dynamics has devised this specially designed mat or “rug,” which joint-venture partner Aztec Solar Power LLC will charge with electricity derived from solar panels that will very soon change how vehicle owners fuel up their preferred mode of transportation, according to Robert Grillo, financial manager for Wayne-based Aztec Solar Power. The solar panels, which are manufactured in America, could be positioned on an overhead canopy or off-site and sent to the mat, which could be based near an office complex, in a commercial or transportation hub or even at a residence.


“Aztec Solar Power has always embraced out-of-the-box thinking,” Grillo says. “What makes this mat different than anyone else’s is that if you’ve used those mats for charging cell phones you’ve felt heat coming from phone—there’s a heat exchange.  This mat prevents any type of heat exchange from occurring.”


Furthermore, these vehicle-recharging mat stations will help reduce millions of tons of carbon dioxide—both from adding more electric cars on the road and from keeping trucks and other petroleum-burning vehicles from idling mid-transportation, which is now a federal mandate, according to Grillo: “Imagine if we could prevent trucks and keep them from idling because their batteries had this energy exchange with the mats to keep their refrigeration going. It’s a completely new, completely revolutionary technology.”


“Revolutionary” is the perfect word. Grillo points to the state of Illinois, which privatized the 7.8-mile Chicago Skyway toll road by leasing it to a Spanish-Australian partnership as a way to generate revenue. Adding recharging stations for Pennsylvania roadways, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, could not only add revenue to state coffers but also keep roadways in state hands.


“Imagine if the turnpike had these charging stations to charge cars, and in turn it could charge users something like an additional dollar for an electric recharge on top of an EZ Pass bill,” he says. “It’s transfer of electricity, from the solar panels to this special pad. … A car or vehicle would just sit on top of this special pad or rug beneath the concrete, so when the owner comes out from a day at work, their car is fully charged for the ride home.”


The Right Time

Such forward-thinking technology comes at a time when electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining increasing traction in the United States. Hybrid and even 100-percent EVs have moved beyond novelty status, becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation embraced coast to coast by consumers and manufacturers alike. Locally, for example, automaker Fisker Automotive has moved into a former General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del., which will enable the company to build as many as 100,000 plug-in hybrid sedans per year by 2014.


Furthermore, Tesla Motors, which is a California-based firm created by a group of Silicon Valley engineers who “set out to prove that electric vehicles could be awesome,” manufactures premium emissions-free cars that are as smart and stylish as a Ferrari. And even the largest manufacturers—Ford, General Motors, Toyota, etc.—have moved aggressively into the electric-car race. Toyota’s hybrid Prius now comes with an option for a solar-powered moonroof capable of generating 50 watts of power for noncritical functions, while the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt continue to make inroads at home; General Motors plans to build 10,000 Volts in 2011, and as many as 45,000 in 2012.


“The electric-car market is a growing segment whether we want to believe it or not,” says Grillo. “Regardless of whether you want to drive one, it will be economical to drive one in the long term. … The biggest issue with electric cars, if you were to do a cost-benefit analysis, used to be that they were being powered by electricity produced from coal-fired plants. With solar power, that’s no longer a concern.”


The nation’s EV infrastructure, assisted by solar integrators such as Aztec Solar Power, is keeping pace with consumer demand. California, for example, already has thousands of EV charging stations planned or already in place, with other U.S. states racing to catch up. The technology has both commercial and residential applications, however; according to market-research firm Pike Research, the United States will be led by residential EV charging units, which will represent 64 percent of the country’s 974,000 charge points to be installed by 2015.


Environmentally conscious cities, organizations and companies are devoting parking areas and even entire lots to drivers of EVs. In November 2010, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Sustainability announced it would receive a $140,000 Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant to purchase and install chargers for 20 EVs in Philadelphia.  The chargers will serve 18 EVs that Philly CarShare and Zipcar will add to their fleets, there displacing 18 traditional car share vehicles. The project is expected to cut CO2 emissions by 61,000 pounds per year.


Aztec Solar Power is doing its part locally by working with transportation companies to beef up the solar infrastructure for commercial use. Asked if the number of charging stations in the greater Philadelphia area will continue to grow, Grillo responds by saying, “How much did a gallon of gas cost yesterday? You don’t have to buy gasoline for these cars, and you don’t have to buy natural gas. So you don’t have to worry about pollution.”


Beyond the Philadelphia area, Aztec Solar Power is also working with maritime companies to develop solar applications that would “recharge the batteries,” so to speak and thereby eliminate problems associated with ships losing power—creating solar-based revolutions by land, air and sea.  


Aztec Solar Power LLC

701 Lee Road, Suite 200, Wayne

877-SUN-6066, AztecSolarPower.com