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Children used solar cells and storage batteries to build their own hybrid cars with solar cells and storage batteries.
The following is a report describing what they learned from the experience. October 9, 2010
The year 2010 marks the fourth anniversary of the Panasonic Kids School. Organized as a part of the Panasonic 'eco ideas' Forum 2010, this year's event invited fifty-five pairs of school children from the third to sixth grades and their caretakers to create their own hybrid cars using solar cells and storage batteries. On the venue's monitor, a similar venue with children sitting around tables was displayed. As the children curiously watched the screen, the MC began to explain what was being shown.
"This is a live image of the Panasonic Center Osaka being transmitted via Panasonic technology. Hello, everyone in Osaka! Let's make hybrid cars together!" The children on the display in Osaka excitedly responded with a resounding "Okay!"
In the guise of "Dr. Eco," a Panasonic employee took the stage to explain environmental issues in our everyday lives using a projector. "It's been an extremely hot summer this year. Do you know what's happening to the planet Earth?" To this question, the children instantly responded by shouting, "Global warming!" Then, after it was explained that one of the ways to stop global warming is CO2 reduction, an illustration of a house was projected on the screen. When Dr. Eco asked the children what electronics they had in their homes, they raised their hands and named items such as TVs, refrigerators, cameras, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners. Those in Osaka gave answers such as PCs and LEDs.
Dr. Eco then gave tips on how to reduce CO2 emissions in our daily lives, where all sorts of electronics are used. The first tip involved saving energy. When Dr. Eco explained that they could reduce some 50% of CO2 emissions if they replaced all of their home appliances from twenty years ago with eco-friendly models, the children cheered. Then, Dr. Eco presented concrete data to provide a tip on what appliances should be used less frequently, such as air conditioners, which consume about a quarter of the total energy used in a home. Dr. Eco also introduced a network-based energy-saving technology that turns off lighting while the family is asleep. His third tip was to use heat-insulated floors and walls. As a fourth tip, Dr. Eco spoke about technology for creating and storing energy, which is closely related to the theme of the event. Dr. Eco was astounded to see how knowledgeable the children were - some even knew about geothermal power generation. "Wow, you guys rock! But unfortunately geothermal power generation cannot be used for private homes. What you can do at home, though, is combine solar power generation using solar panels or fuel cells with storage batteries. When it's sunny, the sunlight can be used to generate power. When it's cloudy or at night, the fuel cells can be used to generate power. If you store the power that you create and use it only when necessary, 35% of all household power consumption can be saved." As soon as Dr. Eco finished speaking, a chart with numbers was displayed on the screen.
Energy-saving technology -50%
Energy-saving home -9%
Creating energy +35%
"These are Panasonic's ideas for a lifestyle with virtually zero CO2 emissions. I hope you were able to understand my presentation."
The children then began producing their own hybrid cars. "Do you know what 'hybrid' means? It means to cross one thing with another. Hybrid cars drive with an engine and a motor, but the hybrid cars that you are going to make use solar panels and Panasonic's Evolta batteries. They'll be powered by the solar panels on flat roads and the batteries on slopes. A built-in seesaw automatically alters the switch on slopes. As you build your hybrid car, I hope you'll get a general idea about which components perform what roles and how a car drives."
If any child was having trouble with the assembly process, standby staff members were available to demonstrate in person. To prevent children from being confused by the wiring - the most difficult part - matching cords were indicated with color-coded red, black, white and yellow tape. After the Evolta battery was placed in the battery box and the solar panel attached, the model suddenly looked like a hybrid car. Some children needed help from their caretakers when attaching the tires to the shaft, which required a fair amount of force. When the hood and body with drawings of windows on it were attached, the hybrid car was completed.
At the venue, a test course with mountainous terrain in the middle was provided. After staff members checked the cars' driving by using an LED light, the children took turns driving their own cars by carefully shining LED lights onto the vehicles. The children took their task very seriously. Meanwhile, the caretakers were busy recording their kids' proud moments with cameras. Some cars stopped while climbing the slope as the light grew farther away, but everyone was eventually able to enjoy the experience of driving their own hybrid car powered by solar panels and batteries.
The children had many things to say about the event: "I've never seen a solar panel before. It was fun attaching them to the car. I had some problems working on the seesaw, but a staff member came to fix it, so it was okay." "Doing the wiring was difficult, but I was surprised and happy to see my car drive so smoothly!"
Displayed on the monitor were the children in Osaka, who had just completed their test runs. When the MC asked, "Did you guys have fun?" everyone replied by saying, "Yes!" Asked the same question, the kids in Tokyo unanimously answered, "Yes!" The event came to a close as the children in the two cities waved goodbye to each other.
By assembling cars by themselves, the children realized that a CO2-free eco car can be made by linking solar power generation systems with batteries (in this case, dry cell batteries). This hands-on environmental study surely left a strong impression in their minds. Let us hope that in the future they will become interested in science, technology, and conserving the global environment!
Panasonic will remain committed to environmental learning for future generations.