Stanford University Unveils New Solar Car

Stanford University will be competing in this year’s World Solar Challenge, to be held in Australia, with what it says is its fastest solar car to date – and hopes to be the first American team to win the race since 1987.
    
Unveiled last week, Xenith weighs just 170 kilograms and reportedly creates less aerodynamic drag than a rider on a bicycle. Xenith’s chassis is constructed from a blend of carbon fiber, titanium and aluminium. 
    
The car is powered by an array of Sunpower solar cells and a new motor that offers 98 percent efficiency. A Panasonic lithium battery pack gives the car a range of 320 kilometres in low light conditions.
  
A revolutionary aspect of the solar cell design is their encapsulation – a special type of glass that doesn’t absorb the areas of the spectrum useful for harvesting solar electricity. According to one of the Xenith team, “..it’s as if the cells are sitting bare under the sun.”
   
A three-wheel steering system was also developed for Xenith where the driver controls the front wheel while a computer steers the two back wheels. According to the team, Xenith can cruise at approximately 88 kilometres per hour.
   
Founded in 1989, the Stanford Solar Car Project is an entirely student-run, non-profit organization. 10,000 hours have gone into the construction of Xenith, which has cost approximately $500,000 to produce to this point. 
  
One Stanford team member commented they were excited by the prospect of seeing kangaroos during the event, “As long as they’re not in front of the car!”
   
The 2011 World Solar Challenge will be run over 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide from October 16. 42 teams from all over the world will be participating in this year’s event, including 3 teams from Australia.
    
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