The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Energy Research Lab (SERL) is displaying its two-seater solar electric hybrid prototype—the UltraCommuter—as part of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland’s centenary events.
Spawned by SERL’s work on the SunShark solar vehicle in 2000, the UltraCommuter is an ultra-light weight, low drag, hybrid-electric commuter vehicle that combines photovoltaic recharging and grid recharging with a CNG-fueled range-extending generator.
Two-and-a-half square metres of solar panels provide 375 Watts of electric power, meeting 87% of the car’s total power needs and cutting greenhouse emissions by 97 percent compared to a conventional sedan (Australia’s Holden Commodore).
In sunny weather the UltraCommuter can travel up to 60 km (37.3 miles) a day on solar power alone. Drawing on power stored in its 360V Li-Ion battery pack extends this to 200 km. For longer journeys compressed natural gas (CNG) powers a 10 kW generator to feed electricity into the batteries, producing a total range of 500 km (310 miles).
The car is propelled by two 75 kW motors producing 500 Nm (369 lb-ft) torque each that sit inside the rear wheels. These motors also act as brakes and perform regenerative braking to recharge the batteries to extend the UltraCommuter’s range.
With its combined high peak torque of 1,000 Nm, the drivetrain can accelerate the vehicle from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in less than 8 seconds.
|Comparing the UltraCommuter|
|Vehicle||Weight (kg)||Fuel cons. (l/100km)||Well-Wheel GHG (kg/100km)|
|UltraCommuter w/ solar||520||0.44||0.85|
|Ultra Commander w/o solar||520||1.6||3.5|
Fuel consumption of 0.44 liters/100km is equivalent to fuel economy of 535 miles per gallon.