Stanford’s Solar Car Project has spent almost two years building their entry for this year’s World Solar Challenge – a streamlined solar vehicle that may be the fastest solar car ever built. Designed in the 8,000-square-foot Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, the Xenith is set to embark on a 3,000-kilometer (or 1,864-mile) race across the Australian Outback on October 16th.
With October right around the corner, these young engineers already have a winning attitude and believe the Xenith is the fastest solar car ever built. As Stanford explained to Gizmodo, “We cannot officially claim to have the world’s fastest solar car yet. However, our car has an incredibly efficient motor, and we believe that our panels have a chance to break a world record for silicon panel efficiency. We are confident that we are in the running to win the World Solar Challenge this October, but the race hasn’t even started yet. That race will be the benchmark for our car and we hope to pursue independently verified tests for speed, motor efficiency, and panel efficiency later in our build cycle.” The team plans on finishing the race in four days, traveling 8 hours a day at an average speed of 60 mph.
The World Solar Challenge happens every two years, and in order to continually push the boundaries of what’s possible each race comes new guidelines and challenges. This year’s most notable change is the driver must be seated in an upright position, unlike past challenges where they were allowed to be lying down for better aerodynamics.
The Xenith’s mechanical components along with the software needed to manage and optimize the vehicle’s performance were mostly designed and built in-house by the students. The car’s exterior is covered with 26 glass solar panels and incorporates a combination of multiple industrial prototype technologies, making it one of the most efficient arrays to date. As described by CNET, “The solar array, with ultra high-efficiency silicon solar cells donated by the SunPower Corporation, employs a proprietary antireflective coating and cutting-edge glass from Corning. An extremely thin thermoplastic urethane is used as the elastomer for the array encapsulation.”
Although we can’t say that the Xenith is the world’s fastest solar car – yet – we’d like to send our congrats to the Solar Car Project. They’ve clearly done some amazing work and we’ll be following them closely to see if they can secure the official title.
Photos by Andreas Peña Doll