12th July 2020


Michael Letwin, head of SunStang electrical team, sits in the 1996 concept that competed in Australia. Photo Credit: Flickr / Western SunStang Solar Car Project
Driving solar innovation

Driving solar innovation

A team of young engineers is confident that solar-powered cars will soon be a North American reality.
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Ben Jurjevich, Ryan Lutz and their team from Western University’s Faculty of Engineering have worked tirelessly to perfect their SunStang concept car in time for its 2014 debut in the American Solar Car Challenge.

“Every other year a combination of engineering and business students build a solar car to compete in one of three events,” says Jurjevich. “These events range from endurance races on Grand Prix style racetracks to cross-country races that are over 2,500 kilometers long.”

Cruising ahead

SunStang last competed in 2007 at the Panasonic World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 kilometer race across the spine of Australia. Expected to be one of the top cars in the competition, Western’s 2007 SunStang submission ran into bad luck on Australia’s unforgiving roads.

“In the first stages of the race the car struck a rock tearing the entire rear suspension unit from the carbon fiber chassis,” Lutz shared, disappointedly. Challenges aside, the team persisted and ultimately managed  to complete the race.

“More than anything we are eager to show the automotive community that solar power is here to stay as a source with which we can power our cars.”

Looking forward

This year the team has commenced building the 2014 SunStang solar car that will be competing at the 2014 American Solar Challenge and, once again, the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia.

They will be using a solar panel array that has been optimized to fit within 6-square-meters, while providing optimal output to their single electric motor. They currently estimate to have an output from the solar cells of 850 to 1000 watts instantaneously from the sun.

This will propel SunStang to an estimated top speed of 135kmh and a targeted cruising speed of 75kmh. “More than anything we are eager to show the automotive community that solar power is here to stay as a source with which we can power our cars.”

“We are excited to show Canada that innovation from the classroom can absolutely make its way to market.”

Teamwork

Past challenges aside, the team maintains a clear focus on their end goal of making Western proud at 2014’s American Solar Car Challenge.

Teams will drive for two 8-hour periods in an attempt to claim the greatest distance traveled. The second portion will be a 2,500km race starting in Austin and continuing North to a currently undisclosed location.  

Although having not competed in six years, Western’s SunStang team cannot wait for their shot at solar car notoriety. “More than anything I think we are excited to show Canada that innovation from the classroom can absolutely make its way to market,” claimed Jurjevich. The SunStang team clearly aims to return from Texas with a lot more than just a suntan.


Source: Western University
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