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"Practical" Solar Car Hits The Road In Sydney

posted 17 Sep 2013, 07:08 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 07:08 ]

Among the teams competing in next month's 3000 kilometre World Solar Challenge race across Australia, is a group from the University of New South Wales who've built a solar-powered vehicle designed to look like a conventional car. In a field dominated by vehicles that look anything but conventional, the car provides a glimpse of what we could be driving on the roads in years to come. Lest Ranby was there for its first test drive.

SYDNEY, NSW, AUSTRALIA (REUTERS) - When you think of solar cars, you probably think of something like this. They look rather odd, and typically hold only one person, who has to lie down in a very awkward position.

But engineers in SydneyAustralia, have unveiled what they say is a human-centric solar car. One that is practical to use, and doesn't look like a strange insect.

The car's name is eVe. It was built for the World Solar Challenge, a gruelling solar car race across the Australian outback. But its designers want to get this car registered to drive on city roads.

This car has four wheels, and room enough for two people. It's lithium-ion battery can be plugged into mains electricity for a fast charge, or alternatively, if you just park it in the sun for 10 hours its solar panels will charge it enough to drive 500 kilometres. That's more than 300 miles.

Mechanical engineer, Kris Harrison, worked on the car.

MECHANICAL ENGINEER, SUNSWIFTKRIS HARRISON:

"At the beginning of this challenge, what we were aiming for is to develop a car which the public could align themselves with, and actually envisage themselves driving one around the street. Instead of having the standard solar-powered cars, which look like a blimp and have no boot space or anything practical."

eVe was built at the Sunswift solar car laboratory at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. It has a lightweight carbon-fibre body that was cast as a single-piece, in a mould made from polystyrene and fibreglass. Sixty students worked around the clock for 15 months to build the car, but the time to put their creation to the test, and drive it for the first time.

Eve was taken to a Sydney racetrack for its inaugural run, and it's a very big moment for all involved.

The first run is done at low-speed, to avoid overheating components. The car is being limited to ten percent of its power, as the crew tests basic functions such as braking and steering.

Sunswift engineer and business manager, Alex To:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ENGINEER AND BUSINESS MANAGER, SUNSWIFT, ALEX TO, SAYING:

"That was the first time we've ever run the car off its own power, independently. The first time it's ever moved. So we were really excited to see it actually work."

Project Manager Sam Paterson was first drive eVe, and he's pleased with how it went.

PROJECT MANAGER, SUNSWIFTSAM PATERSON:

"The brakes work very well. The steering's quite responsive. Vision is reasonable. So, yeah, we're pretty happy with it so far."

Sam is going to take eVe for another run, this time a bit faster. He has agreed to take our camera operator along as a passenger.

PROJECT MANAGER, SUNSWIFTSAM PATERSON:

"With two of us in the car it's the first time that this has happened. And we're off. And we've gone from the square wave in the motor now to the sine wave, so it has gotten much quieter. We're up to 280 R.P.M. there. Probably hitting 300 on this."

It feels like it's going very fast, though the car is still moving at a fraction of its top speed of 140 km/h (87 miles per hour).

(RADIO COMMUNICATION IN CAR)

VOICE OF STUDENT ON RADIO: "Can we get a temperature on the motor control?"

SAM PATERSON: "39.8."

VOICE ON RADIO: "Lovely."

SAM PATERSON: "Un-precharged. Motor control temperature never got above 40 degrees, 40.1 here (Celsius)."

VOICE ON RADIO: Wonderful."

After the World Solar Challenge, the crew intends to install headlights and side impact protection, to geteVe certified as roadworthy. Sam Paterson:

PROJECT MANAGER, SUNSWIFTSAM PATERSON:

"We've actually gone to the point of having it almost ready to register before the race, and we'll leave off the things that we don't require for the race, and then after the race we'll have a little bit of work to do so we can drive it on a public street."

With only weeks to go, the first priority is getting eVe ready for the World Solar Challenge. Now that the first tests are complete, eVe may be on its way to becoming the world's first practical solar car.



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