Make 23: Solar-powered road trip eardrum hazard

Energy & Sustainability
Make 23: Solar-powered road trip eardrum hazard

current_Volume_bug3.jpgWe all love car subwoofers that pump out loud, thumping music while you drive, and in the latest issue of MAKE, Volume 23, Henry Herndon explains how he powered his with a solar panel on the car’s roof.

Before embarking on a long summer road trip, Henry bolted a standard rooftop solar panel to his station wagon’s roof rack, and ran its output to a charge controller and batteries tucked in the footwell behind the driver’s seat. He also connected an inverter, for solar-powering his laptop, razor, and other small appliances literally on the road. The cherry on top is the switch that he used for engaging power to the subwoofer amp: a red pushbutton Hazard light scavenged from an old BMW dashboard. Tuneage Hazard, Engage!

Henry’s solar setup supplied ample stereo bass and laptop charge for his entire 2300-mile trip, as described in his original blog post about the system. The MAKE article expands upon Henry’s original post with additional details, explanations, and advice on how to spec out and source the various components.

You can find an online version of the Solar Car Subwoofer build on Make: Projects.

From the pages of MAKE Volume 23:

MAKE Volume 23, Gadgets
This special issue is devoted to machines that do delightful and surprising things. In it, we show you how to make a miniature electronic Whac-a-Mole arcade game, a tiny but mighty see-through audio amp, a magic mirror that contains an animated soothsayer, a self-balancing one-wheeled Gyrocar, and the Most Useless Machine (as seen on The Colbert Report!). Plus we go behind the scenes and show you how Intellectual Ventures made their incredible laser targeting mosquito zapper — yes, it’s real, and you wish you had one for your patio barbecue. All this and much, much more.

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Paul Spinrad is a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco. He hatches schemes at

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