Personal transport is a major factor in the overall US energy economy equation, which is why AzRISE has partnered with the University of Arizona Solar Racing team to address these problems. Given that Arizona has the nation’s greatest levels of solar insolation, it is clear that solar energy can play a major role in regional energy production—including automobiles.
Solar racing cars are an excellent platform to develop technology for a more efficient future. Advances in power management, lightweight materials and efficient solar energy collection are essential to meeting the goals of efficient transportation systems. Thus, competitive events are not only a proving ground for advanced technology, but also provide engineers with invaluable practical experience.
After the 2008 NASC, AzRISE and the Solar Car team chose to go in a new direction: instead of highly specialized (and not commercially viable) prototype solar vehicles, we are now focusing on practical vehicle designs with production potential. Design and equipment testing has already started on this new practically minded project.
The team has competed in the Urban Challenge class of the Shell Eco-Marathon. The Urban Challenge is a competition specifically for commercially-viable and roadworthy designs. All designs are allowed to utilize either conventional fuels (such as diesel, and gasoline), or alternative energy sources (such as electricity from solar or fuel-cell sources). This new competition has allowed us to move forward in a new, practically-minded direction, as well as moving forward in a future-conscious vehicle design.
For more information and updates, check out: http://www.solarcar.arizona.edu/