The MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (MIT CTL) is sponsoring a project to race a new solar electric car called Arcturus in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, Australia, in October. The vehicle is designed and built by a team of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
MIT CTL Supply Chain Exchange Partner UPS is also sponsoring the student team by transporting the 490-pound vehicle to Australia.
The 3,000-km trek across the Australian Outback is one of the world’s premier events for promoting the development of solar powered vehicles. Each Challenge moves solar car design closer to commercialization.
Arcturus uses solar energy to charge a battery. It consumes the same amount of energy as a hand-held hairdryer to sustain speeds of more than 60 mph.
To achieve this performance, the team has minimized the weight of the car while still complying with safety regulations. The chassis is constructed of chomoly steel tubing, an alloy commonly used in race vehicle applications owing to its higher strength-to-weight ratio compared to standard steel tubing.
Solar electric vehicles, by design, eliminate the need for a universal, high-speed charging system infrastructure. The vehicle’s footprint is comparable to a standard passenger vehicle, enabling the team to transfer knowledge to production passenger and commercial vehicle designs. The team believes that advances in manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing of composite materials, could greatly accelerate the mass production of solar vehicles.
“Designing and building MIT’s solar electric vehicle is an amazing experience. The solar challenge tests more than design. It tests robustness and reliability, which is so important to transferring what we do to a conventional vehicle,” said Rose Abramson, captain for the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team.
The project has inspired spin-off products related to solar power applications and lithium battery systems that are used in various industries including military and agriculture, and could be applied to commercial vehicles. One near-term application of the car’s solar-power technology in the supply chain management field could be to power in-vehicle equipment such as refrigeration units.
“Solar-powered commercial vehicles might seem like a long way off, but the MIT Team’s pioneering work to create Arcturus brings us a step closer to this goal,” said Professor Yossi Sheffi, Director of MIT CTL. “We are proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the project and to support the team’s participation in the Challenge.”
“UPS supports a wide variety of education and alternative fuel programs,” said Randy Stashick, president of engineering for UPS. “MIT’s solar electric vehicle team is doing some incredible work researching how solar energy can become a mainstream power source for passenger and commercial vehicles. It’s critical that the business community support programs that combine science and technology research that have practical research outcomes.”
The MIT solar electric vehicle and its support equipment is being transported by ground and ocean freight with arrangements by UPS and insurance through UPS Capital. The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge begins on Sunday, October 18, 2015, in the northern Australian town of Darwin and concludes at the continent’s southern town of Adelaide on Sunday, October 25.