Australia's first solar electric hybrid sports car

Thursday 6 March 2014

A low angle photograph of Swinburne University of Technology signage on the Advanced Technologies Centre building in Hawthorn.

A sports car designed to be the toughest on the road, while helping the environment and showcasing the benefits of solar power, is on its way to reality thanks to a group of Swinburne University of Technology engineering students and their industry partners.

Swinburne has teamed with Aurora Vehicle Association and SolarX Corporation to create Australia’s first road legal solar-electric hybrid sports car.

Aurora, a not-for-profit Melbourne-based group, has been developing solar racers for decades and was keen to produce a commercially viable street legal two-seat sports car to demonstrate the capabilities of solar power.

Swinburne Product Design Engineering senior lecturer, Dr Clint Steele, said Aurora approached the university to use the talent of the undergraduate engineering students.

“Swinburne is providing the mechanical engineering knowledge, while Aurora provides the expertise and wisdom,” Dr Steele said.

Dr Steele said the car would be powered by solar and electric battery energy, eliminating the reliance on fossil fuel and making it a zero emissions vehicle.

“It’s a two-seater roadster with hub motors built into the rear wheels, which is the latest CSIRO/Marand technology,” he said. “It’s unique in that we’ve got batteries that do the hard work and the solar panels top them up.

“The car will be able to drive at any speed limit in Australia. As long as the sun is shining the car can keep going.

“It has the ability to make drivers completely independent, so they don’t need to rely on service stations. It will be the toughest car on the road.”

Dr Steele said the challenges associated with moving from a concept to producing a car that was commercially viable were in the refinement stages, as it had to be strong and lightweight.

“We also need to make the car look good and still have the aerodynamics that we require. This is where the product design engineering students come in,” Dr Steele said.

Barry Nguyen, chief executive officer of SolarX Corporation - the collaborative enterprise’s commercial arm that was set up to work alongside Aurora and Swinburne - said the project had international potential.

“There are many countries around the world with unresolved pollution problems crying out for innovative solutions,” Mr Nguyen said.

“This project will prove that zero emission cars are a realistic mode of sustainable transportation, reducing the burden on the environment.

“The intellectual property that we develop in these circumstances has the potential to be applied in other areas.”

Mr Nguyen said the car would be available for limited production, but would also serve as a public platform to showcase technologies for potential licensing to other companies.

Read the full story in Venture magazine .