Although solar panels are far more efficient than they were even just a few years ago, they’re not yet able to absorb enough energy to solely power a modern car.
Well, kind of.
What you see above is the University of Michigan’s World Solar Challenge entry vehicle. Other than looking like a cartoonish rolling coffee table or a Hello Kitty-designed aircraft carrier, it has a few other distinctive features. Most notably, it’s powered only by sunlight.
The World Solar Challenge takes place in Australia – from October 6-13th – and vehicles must travel 1,800 miles from Darwin to Adelaide propelled only by solar power.
As you can see from the pictures, the driver is placed on one side, in between two of the four wheels. Rather than placing the driver in the center, it is rather much more aerodynamically efficient to place him or her in one side.
While this table-like design isn’t gorgeous, it’s extremely efficient. It’s not a UM creation, as Green Car Reports points out. The 1955 Bisiluro Damolnar Le Mans racecar utilized a similar, yet arguably much more stylish, version of the design.
Ignoring the design, the information garnered by the UM team might just lead to vehicle improvements down the line. Ford, General Motors, Qatar Airways, and Siemens have all sponsored the car. Presumably for their support, they get a chance to keep the data gathered on the lightweight solar car.
If you’d like to follow the UM team on its drive through the Australian outback, you can keep up-to-date on the team’s website.
We applaud the UM team for their daring design but also wouldn’t trade places with them. Imagine how bloody hot it’ll be in that bugger.