Charging An Electric Supercar With Lemons, Kids, And The Sun

First things first: the tease on this video, that an electric supercar can be charged from a massive lemon battery array, is exactly that – a tease. Despite that, it makes for an interesting story and a great attempt to get kids exposed to science and engineering.

The story goes that [Mark] was approached by Volkswagen to help charge the batteries on their entry for the upcoming Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the annual “Race to the Clouds” in Colorado. Racers are tortured by a 4,700′ (1,440 m) vertical climb over a 12.42 mile (20 km) course that features 156 switchback turns. Volkswagen’s entry is an electric supercar, and they sent [Mark] a portable battery cart to charge up the best way he saw fit.

Teaming up with [William Osman], the first attempt was a massive array of lemon cells, made with waterjet-cut strips of zinc and copper held in a plywood frame. Studded with 1,232 lemons, the battery performed just about as well as you’d expect it would. Plan B was cute, and another of [Mark]’s attempts to pad his “Funnest Uncle Ever” score a bit. He devised a zip line with regenerative braking to charge a cordless drill battery, and then indirectly harvested the energy in the battery by turning it into lemonade for a bunch of kids. The sugared-up kids rode the zip line till the battery was charged.

That was still a drop in the bucket, though, so Plan C saw [Mark] install a large solar array on his roof; the tie-in here was that the lemon-powered kids got to design a cleaning system for the solar array. A weak link, to be sure, but the kids had fun, and we can’t deny that the car will at least be partially lemon-powered when it heads up the hill.

27 thoughts on “Charging An Electric Supercar With Lemons, Kids, And The Sun

      1. Probably not, the power drops even when the battery isn’t being used as the zinc and copper are still reacting, so it’s a nice idea but unfortunately not very practical, I am just glad that he proved that…

    1. Going onto a tangent, do you know Volkswagen windows are safer than most American cat windows? They stop going up when they sense an object blocking the window, some American cars just keep going…

  1. Misleading title. Misleading article. Misleading video.
    The power is not coming from the lemons. The power is coming from the electrochemical reaction of Zn(0) being converted to Zn(II). The lemons just provide an electrolyte.

    1. Well good job the channel isn’t run by you then, if you bothered to look for the videos before (from his friend William Osman’s YouTube account) you’d understand, but I guess you’re just lazy and jump to conclusions easy.

        1. This is actually a brilliant example why food for human consumption is the worst fuel for propulsion possible. A bicyclist emits 95gCO2 / kM when you factor in the the pollution from meat production an not just the 10g CO2 from his breath. Certainly, food used in the human body engine with poor conversion efficiency of 15% from the chemical bonds to shaft power, makes it even worse, so using food directly to charge an EV is slightly more sensible and brings it on par with a Diesel engined car.

          1. Stupid is as stupid does
            Diesel, fitted with “Danger, Flammable” signs, when the truth is,
            the best way to extinguish a road f[are is stick it in a bucket of diesel.

            Almost impossible to ignite diesel in liquid form, must raise temp to Vapor level to even have a chance.
            (Google it)

          2. Whilst I don’t disagree with your general point, you are massively out on your CO2 emissions for cyclists. The European Cyclist’s Federation looked into this in quite a lot of detail (

            Bikes are nearly an order of magnitude better than cars for emissions.

            In summary, typical diet, typical bike: 21g CO2e/km (everything from manufacture to food emissions).
            For a car, typical petrol engine: 194g CO2e/km (again, including manufacture, fuel, and even the food used to keep the driver alive while they are driving).

    1. Well VW are using glycerol-powered diesel generators at Pikes Peak, Jalopnik did an article about it and someone suggested that just burning the glycerol in an engine in the car might be more efficient ;)

      1. If they used a glycerol powered infernal combustion engine they wouldn’t have set a speed record though. The Pikes Peak course takes maximum advantage of the properties of EVs (Fast short sprints of maximum acceleration, followed by hard braking, followed by maximum acceleration, rinse, repeat) and IC engines are simply at a disadvantage there.

    2. I found out the other day that diamonds + oxygen + heat = C02, so if you find a way to SOMEHOW use CO2 you could just burn diamonds, I guess that would be friendly though as you could recycle CO2 in the air…

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