University Solar Team Switches Focus From Competition to Near-Production Ready Vehicle; Changing the Solar-Powered Paradigm
|The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric, single-passenger vehicle. Click to enlarge.
After 17 years of building solar cars to enter into competitions—the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge—the Sunstang solar team at The University of Western Ontario is shifting its focus to developing a near production-ready commuter vehicle.
This next-generation Sunstang is based on the team’s re-evaluation of the solar-powered vehicle paradigm. Rather than trying to use solar cells to provide power directly to the vehicle, the new Sunstang will use a removable battery system which will be recharged by a residential solar charging stations. One battery pack will remain on the charging station, while the other is in the car.
The issue with the competitions is that the difference between our car, which was basically the lowest budget possible, to the cars that were winning is the solar panels and that’s it.
—Geoff Gauthier, project manager for the Sunstang
|Efficiency to cost ratio. Source: Sunstang team. Click to enlarge.
Today’s solar race vehicles are nearing a technical saturation point in which little improvement can be made without a growth in efficiency of the solar panels, the Sunstang team says. The team calculated that the cost of solar panels grows nearly exponentially with an increase in efficiency. Not only does this create major issues for racing vehicles, it suggests that applying these technologies directly to a practical vehicle would be in vain, the team concluded. Hence, the switch in the solar-powered model to using swappable batteries recharged by home solar stations.
The new Sunstang is a three-wheel, fully electric single passenger vehicle with a steel chassis and composite body. The car will be powered by a 10.5 kW CSIRO motor designed for solar racing. The car has a top speed of 135 km/h (83 mph) and can drive approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) based on a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) or up to almost 300 km (186 miles) in the city on a fully-charged battery.
The interior will be similar to a traditional car: it will have more than two cubic meters of storage space and a spare tire.
Sunstang has received a $10,000 donation from Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc., which distributes tires for high performance, passenger car, commercial and off-road vehicles. Yokohama is considering designing and producing a tire specifically for the new Sunstang project.
The group plans to drive the vehicle across Canada in August or September to raise awareness and build exposure for the team. There are 32 members from the Faculty of Engineering and other faculties across campus working on the design and production.
At this point, the group has finished its design and is manufacturing the vehicle. The battery system is in the designing process.