University researchers are working on developing a solar ‘tree’ prototype able to charge electric cars, which of course will have its work cut out in the United Kingdom’s not-so-sunny climes.

Sheffield Uni’s advanced manufacturing research centre has today said it’s working with a company called SolarBotanic Trees – kinda does what it says on the tin, there – to develop the prototype so that it can be turned into a production reality.

And when out in the real world, we’re told these solar ‘trees’ will be placed in “aesthetically sensitive locations” and will themselves be “easy on the eye and the environment”. The ‘tree’ features a dome (thanks, The Simpsons) made up of nano photovoltaic ‘leaves’ that absorb light energy. Said energy can be directly transferred to something that needs it, or transferred to an “AI-driven energy storage and power management system”.

Apparently the concept was thought of seven years ago, and the prototype will be developed in tandem with the final version, said to be available in mid-2023. About those locations: airport car parks, shopping centres, sports stadiums and exhibition centres are all in the mix.

“The team at the AMRC is a great partner for SolarBotanic Trees to deliver the prototype at speed using its world-class facilities and talent which will enable us to rapidly move to commercial production in the near future, starting with our launch order for 200 trees for RAW Charging Group,” said SB Trees boss Chris Shelley.

Here’s hoping for sunnier days ahead, no?

Extracted in full form: Experts are developing solar ‘trees’ that can charge electric cars | Top Gear