Should Santa consider a higher-tech alternative to his team of highly trained reindeer? What if Dasher, Dancer and crew decided to spend the holiday on vacation in balmy Christmas, Florida? Could Rudolph choose to spend Christmas not supplying the spotlight? What would Santa do?
The increasing trend toward electric vehicles (nearly one out of five new light-duty vehicles sold in the United States recently) is poised to expand to North Pole elf innovation in the area of sleigh technology. That would include some hefty batteries and charging rates.
When Discover magazine tackled this concept a decade ago, the researcher concluded that a lack of plentiful charging stations around the globe would make it impractical for Santa to recharge an electric sleigh often enough. These days, charging stations can be found nearly as frequently along the way as gas stations, giving Santa more options. If comparable to the Tesla 2023 Model S battery charging range, the sleigh would need to recharge every 405 miles; or it could stay powered throughout the night with a half-million of those batteries.
Electric vehicle technology is evolving, as is the capacity for battery storage – paired often with the ability to create that electricity for the batteries via solar photovoltaics. An 80 megawatt solar array at the North Pole could potentially produce 56.1 megawatt hours of electricity during the year that includes six months of continuous sunlight from April through September, storing that in a 54 megawatt hour battery system, then having that energy at the ready for sleigh-flying season.
Just how many miles would Santa’s sleigh need to cover on Christmas Eve, and how fast would it be traveling to reach every believing household? Student researchers at the University of Leicester have tackled the speed question, and it’s amazingly fast – half the speed of light! One calculation shows the travel route covering 220 million miles.
While solar, storage and electric vehicle technology has come a long way, it’s still no match for the magic of Santa, Rudolph and the rest of his loyal team preparing for their biggest night of the year! The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will be tracking Santa on December 24 per protocol and will likely be the first to detect any updates in sleigh technology.
Anne Brock, who still believes in Santa, is marketing coordinator for SolarAlliance.com, which provides energy monitoring, solar design, battery backup and pv maintenance of installed systems. She can be reached at 865-221-8349