London, Ontario – Yokohama Tire Canada has help fund the Sunstang solar car program at the University of Western Ontario, in which a team of engineering students is exploring a new approach to making solar-powered electrical cars practical for use in everyday driving.
Yokohama is the first corporate supporter of the project, which will see the student team design, engineer and build a three-wheel car powered by electricity derived from the sun.
The car differs from most student-built solar-powered cars produced for competitions, which generate power that is used immediately. It uses solar power for a charger paired with the car, and was not built for a competition.
“The competitions had hit a kind of saturation,” said project manager Geoff Gauthier. “There was no real improvement in the technology coming from them. We spent a year analyzing what we should build, and why. We wanted to research the real issues that the electric car would face over the next fifteen years.”
The design will use a removable, replaceable battery array able to provide faster charging times. One battery pack will remain in the charging station while another is being used for driving. The car will be powered by a three-phase induction motor that is 97 per cent efficient.
The student team expects to unveil their design early in May 2010 and show a drivable model by the end of that month. Tentative plans include an attempt to drive the Sunstang across Canada and to visit major Canadian car shows.