Rotors in Motion: Solar Vehicle Motor Design

Rotors in Motion

Commercially available motors have certain limitations for solar-car-racing applications and focus on delivering higher than necessary top speeds at the cost of sacrificing torque output. The goal of the Rotors in Motion project is to develop a general method for optimizing motor designs and to then use this method to manufacture a motor for the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team CalSol.

Smart Building

Smart Building

The goal of Smart Building is to validate an adaptive, real-time, automated energy management solution, Energy Management System (EMS), through pilots at commercial building sites, starting with restaurants and office buildings. Restaurants have the highest energy intensity of all commercial buildings, and office buildings are the largest energy consumers of all commercial buildings. Estimated annual energy cost savings are over $3,200 for the median restaurant, and $22,000 for a medium-large office, representing ten and twenty percent savings, respectively, on the utility bills for these buildings. Once validation is completed, and feasibility is established, the team plans to commercialize the product, and will seek to scale rapidly through strategic partnerships and licensing.

Waste Into Fuel

“Waste Into Fuel” is a plan that will allow the Berkeley campus to harness the energy potential of the waste cooking oil that it currently disposes to replace various diesel-using appliances and utilities on campus — resulting in an overall savings of $30,000 annually after the first year of use. “Waste into Fuel” proposes that the campus convert waste cooking oil into bio-diesel by investing in 55-gallon steel drums and a Freedom Fueler Deluxe w/ Drywash, a machine which will conveniently carry out the process to create the biodiesel. The project will also use a MR-50 Methanol Recovery System to separate the byproduct of the energy extraction process into methanol. This will lower costs of the needed methanol and potentially result in a monetary gain, as the glycerin could then be used to make soap on campus or even sold to companies that process it. The goal is to not only create a system that can produce and use biodiesel, but also to execute the idea in a way that is most optimally cost-effective and environmentally friendly for the Berkeley campus.


Energy efficiency represents a vast, low-cost energy resource—but it can only be unlocked with an innovative and comprehensive market based approach. There is growing demand for an alternate financing mechanism for the implementation of energy conservation measures to reduce energy consumption and thereby lower greenhouse gas emissions. Zaakta is a webbased marketplace that brings together customers, technology experts, contractors, and financiers to implement energy efficiency projects. This platform will target under-served markets that either lack the direct funds to invest in these projects or the scale and scope required to attract interest from current energy service companies or utilities for financing.

Monte Verde Solar

On Calle de Monte Verde in Nicaragua, poor farmers with no daily earning, depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods and survival. Water is raised from wells by hand-cranked levers which lift small buckets from the depths to the surface where they are detached from the well rope and dumped into a larger bucket located on carts drawn by oxen. This project will seek to improve the efficiency of this highly labor-intensive process by testing solar or treadle pump technologies in this setting. If successful, this project will enable farmers to more efficiently manage their crops and their time. It would thus allow farmers to diversify crops and increase yields sufficiently to allow them to enter the market and generate income.

INSTAR (INertial STorage And Recovery)

Today’s hybrid and plug-in electric automobiles are able to recover some of the energy normally lost to friction during braking. Even in today’s cutting-edge vehicles, however, a large amount of kinetic energy is still lost to braking during the typical stop-and-go urban commute. INSTAR is a system designed to greatly improve on existing technologies in order to recover the maximum amount of kinetic energy normally lost during braking. The energy recovered will be converted into usable electric energy. This recovered energy can then be used to power the vehicle, thereby increasing the travel-range and battery life of plug-in and hybrid vehicles. By increasing the efficiency and functionality of hybrid and electric vehicles in this way, the INSTAR system could make these vehicles significantly more attractive to consumers and increase adoption rates.

DC Microgrids for Developing Regions

Like rural areas in many developing countries, India’s rural regions lack reliable electricity. Energy needs are often met by kerosene or highly inefficient power generators. This project will address this problem by developing micro-grids that will bring reliable, efficient and inexpensive electricity to regions of rural India. The project combines local, small-scale energy production facilities with innovative means of billing, storing and distributing energy to create a new “microgrid” system optimal for rural areas. The new microgrids will provide reliable, energy-efficient and inexpensive electricity to areas that were previously dependent on highly inefficient and expensive forms of energy.