A tree-shaped solar EV charger is coming soon to a car park near you

It will be commercially available in early 2023.
Ameya Paleja
solar powered trees.
solar powered trees

Solar Botanic 

London-based SolarBotanic Trees (SBT) unveiled its solar and storage system that is shaped liked a tree. The company aims to deploy its technology to charge electric vehicles (EVs) to begin with, Electrek reported.

With the world moving towards less-carbon emissions, there is a rush toward harnessing renewable sources of energy. Not only do these technologies need improvements in their power generation efficiencies, but they also need to be aesthetically pleasing.

A massive solar farm in the middle of a desert may trouble nobody, but building high towers in urban areas and inclining solar panels on them isn't a very good example of modern architecture either. This is why companies like Tesla are innovating to incorporate solar panels into a roof where they are inconspicuous in their presence yet toiling away.

A tree-shaped solar energy system

In 2017, a group of like-minded people came together to form SBT and reimagine how solar energy could be harvested without the hassle of large solar panels. Their ideas evolved into a design of a solar tree that might look like a giant mushroom to many. What it does manage to do is stay away from the concept of rectangular boxes that house solar panels.

The company claims that it uses the world's first 3-D leaf-shaped photovoltaic nanotechnology in its trees. The solar cells used in the trees are ultra-thin, and each tree can generate up to 5kW of power, Electrek said in its report.

It is not just the tree design where the company spent its time. Its energy management system (EMS) uses artificial intelligence to regulate the capture and release of energy based on solar power, the company claims on its website.

When will it be available?

The company has three versions of its trees in the pipeline.

The prototype of the first (v01) is ready, and the team is working on the logistics and finances to get it installed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. for performance modeling validation tests. Once the testing is completed, the v01 tree is expected to be available by mid-next year.

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The v02 tree is designed to be coupled with the AI-driven EMS, which will enable it to power a house and charge an EV, and is planned for late 2023. Version 03 of the tree is slated for 2025, where it will combine wind and solar power generation modules.

SBT is also working towards another round of funding in order to pay for the commercial production of its trees and scale up to commercial volumes, where it believes its trees will become affordable.

SBT wants to sell its solar trees to commercial car parks where they can be used to charge EVs with a rapid charge option. The trees could also be clubbed together to make a "forest" of their own to power an entire community. Alternatively, the trees can be connected to the grid and excess energy sold.

The exact price of the unit or cost per kWh hasn't been shared yet.

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