For the tenth year in a row, MIT students have designed a solar race car to compete in the World Solar Challenge, a seven-day, 2,000-mile race across Australia. This year's model is called Eleanor and she crushes the stereotype that solar cars can only go slow.
The $243,000, carbon-fiber machine weighs only 500 pounds and can go as fast as 90 mph. The top is covered with 580 silicon solar cells that generate 1,200 watts. The power is stored in a battery pack comprised of 693 lithion-ion cells and the car is propelled by a 10-horsepower motor. The team used Ford Motor Company's wind tunnel to fine tune the body design to the point of reaching a drag coefficient of .11, which makes it more aerodynamic than the Toyota Prius or Aptera 2e.
Solar cars usually get a lot of flack for not being a realistic option for commercial automobiles and I agree that a fully solar-powered car is not viable right now. Eleanor's team admits that even though she could go 90 mph, the driver will probably stick to around 55 mph because of the loud resonance that happens due to the hollow body. But just because it's not ideal, doesn't mean designers shouldn't keep experimenting with the technology. The MIT team believes that the breakthroughs they've made this year in their solar race car could easily be adapted to hybrid and electric cars to boost their efficiency.
via Wired's Autopia
written by Roger, March 09, 2009
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