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Monday, October 12, 2009

Solar car 'uses less power than toaster'

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) solar racing team, Sunswift, has unveiled an all-new solar car to contest this year’s Global Green Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide.

Sunswift IV, affectionately known to the team as IVy, is a three-wheeled, hand-built, carbon-fibre machine which can reach a top speed of 115 km/h using just 1300 W, the same amount of power it takes to toast two slices of bread.

About the same footprint as a small sedan, but half the height and one-tenth the weight, the single-seater car produces no carbon emissions and can cruise at 85 km/h.

Sunswift IV will be the only solar car entry from NSW, and the only student-run team from Australia, to contest the Global Green Challenge, a 3000 km race for solar and eco-friendly vehicles which draws competitors from around the world, including big-budget solar racing teams from the United States and the Netherlands.

The race starts in Darwin on 24 October, with Sunswift expected to reach Adelaide within five days.

Team Leader Clara Mazzone, who is studying Renewable Energy Engineering at UNSW, said the Sunswift team had put in an extraordinary effort to prepare the new car and raise the $280,000 needed to fund the project and race campaign.

“The 60 students in the team have given up their spare time over the past 18 months to design, build and fund this vehicle,” she said.

“Although IVy is a race vehicle, it has a new design, including a steering wheel and upright seating position, which brings it closer to something we might see on the road in the future.”

IVy is expected to run on 1.3 kilowatts of power from its solar array when travelling at a speed of 90km/h - compared with 1.8 kW needed to run a four-slice toaster, Mr Pye said.

It also has a 5 kWh Li-po battery that will run the car for five hours without sunlight.

"Everything is thought (of) to make it as efficient as possible, because the race that it's built for is an endurance race more than anything," Mr Pye said.

The students will take IVy from Sydney to Adelaide before the race and test-run her from Adelaide to Darwin.

They plan to stop at schools on the way to Adelaide from Sydney to showcase their project.

"We're hoping just to get (children) excited about renewable energy, really, and the technologies we're developing, to kind of inspire them to keep it going and show them what's possible," Mr Pye said.

"I think the most amazing thing about it is that a bunch of students have built a car that runs off the sun and can race from Darwin to Adelaide in four or five days," he said.

"And it shows you, if we can do that, imagine what companies and governments can do if they really put their mind to it."

Sunswift IV specifications:
Dimensions - (L) 4.6 m (W) 1.8 m (H) 1.8 m
Weight - less than 150 kg
Body and chassis - (Frame) monocoque (Body Material) carbon fibre
Suspension - (Front) double wishbone (Rear) trailing arm
Steering - rack and pinion
Wheels & Tyres - (Number) 3 (Wheels) carbon fibre (Tyres) Dunlop Solarma
Brakes - (Front) hydraulic dual redundancy (Rear) handbrake (Regen) CSIRO wheel motor
Energy Storage - (Chemistry) lithium polymer (Weight) 24.75 kg
Motor - (Type) brushless CSIRO 3-phase DC (Power) 1800 W (Efficiency) 98%
Controller - (Type) tritium wave sculptor (Power) 20 KW (Efficiency) 97%
Performance - (Solar Only@ 5.998 m2) 1300 W (Max Speed) 115 km/hr (est avg) 85 km/hr
Project Cost - (Cost) $280,000 (Project Time) 18 months

The contrast in the above picture (click to download larger image) 'Solar Car meets Road Train' is a graphic illustration of the difference in eneregy efficiency between old and new. ICE powered cars are only 15% energy efficient at the wheels. That means that of the four tanker trailers being hauled by this Road Train, three tanker loads will be converted by end-users into waste heat using ICEs.

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