How To Fill `Er Up With California Sunshine

With electrically powered cars destined to appear on Southern California highways soon, manufacturers and utilities must find convenient ways to charge the cars, which will have limited mileage. So Southern California Edison and the South Coast Air Quality Management District have designed a pollution-free recharging method: a solar-powered carport.

Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the 3,000-square-foot prototype carport will provide enough energy to charge the cars. On cloudy or rainy days, electricity would be pulled off the regular grid, says Nick W. Patapoff, senior research engineer at SoCal Edison. The prototype, to be completed in early 1992, will cost around $250,000, but prices should drop once lower-cost solar cells under development at SoCal and Texas Instruments Inc. are ready. If the prototype succeeds, SoCal plans to build carports throughout the area in public parking facilities. Consumers would pay for charges by credit card.

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