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TU/e students win Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class with solar-powered family car

The student team from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has won the Cruiser Class (for practical solar-powered cars) for the third time at this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia.

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke. Click to enlarge.

The aim of the Cruiser Class is to transport as many people as possible 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) from Darwin to Adelaide in the most energy-efficient way. The Eindhoven team drove the first 1,500 km (932 miles) with five occupants aboard. To move one person 100 kilometers the solar-powered car uses 0.4 kiloWatt hours (kWh). By comparison, a modern electric car requires about 8.5 times as much energy to do the same job. Thanks to the efficiency of transporting the most number of people possible, the team had already build a significant lead in points by day two.

The team arrived on Friday morning in Adelaide after a journey of 3,022 kilometers (1,878 miles), the final 250 of which was covered with 5 people aboard and at an average speed of 70 kilometers per hour (43.5 mph). The whole journey was completed with an average of 3.4 persons per kilometer, using 48 kWh and gained a maximum score of 20 out of 20 for practicality on Saturday.

Eindhoven is one of the three Dutch teams and shared victory with the team from Delft, which won this year’s Challenger class in which single-occupant solar-powered cars race to see who is fastest. The team from the Twente University of Technology was fifth.



It is cool, but it is not practical (by today's standards).
I would not like to crash in one.
I would not like to be in a hot or cold place in one.

It demonstrates what can be done to move people with minimum energy, but it isn't practical as is. It is way too long and too much space. Imagine trying to use one of these in any city, say Amsterdam.

You have to separate the solar power from the car so you can make it smaller and more energy dense, like say a Nissan Leaf (or any real electric car).

There is not reason not to have a grid with a lot of electric battery powered vehicles and solar or wind on it.
However, you DO NOT need to put the solar panels on the car, just use a battery.


Impressive efficiency (8.4 X current e-cars).

With modified shape (shorter, rounder, smaller) and curved/flexible higher efficiency solar panels, it could (one day) become a solar vehicle to drive around on sunny days?


I think you have to ask what can be learned from this.
It is very impressive, but it is very far from "family ready".
It is presumably very light, low powered, aerodynamic and large.
It is powered by its own solar cells.

What parts could you take from it to (say) double the efficiency of current vehicles (say allowing you to drive 10 km / KwH).
Lightness and aerodynamics and low speed design for one, I would guess. It is too large, but if you put some batteries in it, that problem goes away, and it can get small again.

So if you made a small carbon fibre bubble that couldn't go more than 110 (or 90) KpH. Then, it has to be able to accelerate, climb reasonable hills and survive a crash.
And be affordable and comfortable (maybe no A/C for power reasons), but a radio + music player, certainly.

I would rate crash-worthiness as the biggest problem.
+ it has to look good (which it currently does) because people are fussy about what cars look like.


Using ultra light 15+ cm thick side walls plus (front and back end) and flexible plastic windows could satisfy the safety issue without adding much extra weight.

Covering the complete body with transparent ultra thin flexible solar panels to increase solar energy capture.

Improve the bubble sape to further reduce drag.

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