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Aston Martin Racing partnering with Hanergy Global Solar to explore solar cells to power AC in FIA WEC GT racers

14 June 2014

Aston Martin Racing is partnering with Beijing-based Hanergy Global Solar to explore the use of thin film solar panels to improve GT race car performance at the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), starting with the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend.

We aren’t looking at solar power technology for our race cars because it is a green option. We are looking at how we can use the power of the sun to improve the comfort of our race cars for our drivers and therefore increase our performance on track. However, we are looking at how we can improve our green credentials as a business now that we are moving to new premises.

—Aston Martin Racing’s Team Principal John Gaw

Hanergy is best known for its solar photovoltaic panels that are fitted to the roof of buildings. Hanergy is also exploring wider applications of its technologies, investigating how solar power can be incorporated into many new areas to improve efficiency and enhance performance. It turned to Aston Martin Racing for its latest project.

We can now manufacture photovoltaic solar panels that are thin, lightweight and flexible, with world leading performance. We are interested in developing these for cars, so that, for example, a thin layer of cells can be applied to the roof or rear windscreen to power the air-conditioning or other ancillary functions without affecting the performance of the car or using the fuel or battery source. The engineers at Aston Martin Racing are helping us to apply our technology and eventually to put it to the test in the most extreme of automotive environments.

—Jason Chow, Executive President Hanergy Global PV Application Group

In line with current FIA WEC regulations, GT cars must be fitted with an air conditioning system that keeps the temperature of the cockpit below 32 ˚C (90 ˚F) or 12 degrees above ambient temperature.

High temperatures in the race car can have extremely negative affects on drivers and, with the WEC travelling to hot destinations such Austin and Bahrain, it is a concern for all of the teams. However, running air conditioning causes loss of power to the engine and negatively affects the car’s fuel efficiency.

It’s a bit of a balancing game at the moment. The air conditioning system uses engine power, however, keeping the drivers cool and more comfortable is essential. If we can find a solution that keeps the driver cool without the negative effects on performance then it could have a really positive impact on GT racing.

—Dan Sayers, Chief Engineer at Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin Racing is continually improving the comfort of its range of Vantage race cars that compete in championships around the world and the technology could be introduced to the V12 Vantage GT3 and V8 Vantage GT4 once developed.

The project will run throughout 2014 with the engineers developing the technology at Aston Martin Racing’s premises ahead the next round of the WEC, the Six Hours of Austin, at the Circuit of the Americas.

June 14, 2014 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

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It should soon be possible to integrate thin transparent solar cells on hood, roof, booth, front and rear windows to further extend range of all electrified vehicles without increasing the size of the battery pack, specially in very hot sunny areas where the vehicle HVAC consumes a lot of energy.

This is crazy.

Efficient solar cells produce about 15 watts per square foot.

This makes less sense that thermocouples in the exhaust and makes us wonder about those who support such foolishness.

It should be possible to use this to cheat.

The solar cells could be made with built-in rectennas to capture microwave radiation.  Beamed power could supply kilowatts per square meter, and metallized windows would keep it out of the cockpit.  Even a few horsepower would give an advantage over other vehicles.

The beamed microwave radiation could provide significant power - AND would also eliminate most of the competition (as well as many of the spectators).

Or did you mean to harness the cosmic microwave background radiation?

A genuine renewable (well, limitless anyway) power source.

But with even lower power density than solar.

But hey, let's not bring reality into this.

Microwaves aren't hazardous at low intensities, TT, and they can be focused very precisely.  The biggest problem with a scheme like this would be hiding the transmitter.

The CMBR is thermal, not coherent, and not something that can generate power.  Think Maxwell's demon.

Microwaves aren't going to provide power to an Aston Martin at low intensities.

Focused microwaves at high intensities would be aimed at the car (and its rectennas).  Nothing further than a few feet from the car would be exposed to anything beyond low intensities.  Do try to keep up.

I have trouble following fantasy where engineering principles are in abeyance.

Goldstone did come near showing that restricting the power to one race car would be an engineering practicality.

You might say that “Everything you can imagine is real.”
And I would say stick to painting.

I think you two are getting off track. From the article: "We aren’t looking at solar power technology for our race cars because it is a green option. We are looking at how we can use the power of the sun to improve the comfort of our race cars for our drivers and therefore increase our performance on track." and "a thin layer of cells can be applied to the roof or rear windscreen to power the air-conditioning or other ancillary functions without affecting the performance of the car or using the fuel or battery source."

For this, it works.

The good news is that Hanergy's CIGS thin film solar PV is now capable of 20.8% efficiency, perhaps a little bit less for flexible type...but the rate improvement is really amazing.

In areas with high solar level, a PHEV with modest battery pack (of 10kWh or less) that is covered with solar PV's of 20% efficiency can be sufficiently charged for the trip home when parked in the sun, w/out required plugging in at work. If most cars in sunny California will be PHEV's and will have such solar PV coverage, just imagine the impact on pollution and oil consumption and GHG reduction, and water consumption, too, because steam turbines require cooling tower that consumes water.

That is the idea RP.

With future higher efficiency (up to 40+% ?) solar cells integrated into the vehicle hood, roof, booth plus front and rear windows, the range of ultra light BEVs could be significantly increased without extra heavy batteries. Cost wise, the ultra thin very light solar cells may not cost much more than the extra heavy batteries they could replace.

As you said, such BEVs would benefit from:

1. a pre-cooled cabin most every day.
2. free solar charge for the return trip home.
3. many short trips with free solar energy.

FCEVs with a battery back could also benefit.

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