Impulse_ObliqueThis post showcases the Impulse, a really cool solar powered car built by the CalSol student group of UC Berkeley and that has been entered to compete in the World Solar Challenge. Hats off to these young engineers and designers for putting together such a sleek racer that showcases the power of the sun and lightweight vehicle construction. Events such as these are also an important way to raise awareness of the potential of renewable energy.

by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post Chris is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Chris on Twitter @greeneconpost

Some of you may already have seen this sleek solar racer being built by students at the University of California, Berkeley and entered to compete in the world’s premiere solar race, the World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile road race across the outback of Australia. I may be branding myself as a cleantech geek, by saying this, but I think this sun powered car looks really cool… literally cutting edge.

The solar car called Impulse will be CalSol’s first-ever entry in this event and is the fruit of many generations of solar cars that this student organization has already built. It sports some impressive engineering, sophisticated electronics and six square meters of solar cells. Its almost 5 meter long shell is made of carbon fiber, lightweight honeycomb material, and other strong but lightweight composites. To conserve energy, Impulse is expected to weigh just 500 pounds. It’s 9-horsepower electric motor runs on electricity produced from solar cells and a solar charged battery pack. Impulse will carry a single passenger at speeds expected to hit 70 miles per hour.

The team employed computational fluid dynamics to analyze an estimated 60 body iterations before settling on Impulse’s distinctive curves and contours. They wrote a program to determine which body shape would optimize the energy captured by the car’s solar cell array, factoring in such considerations as the route, Southern Hemisphere location and time of year. They also designed interchangeable circuit boards that will run everything from the car’s on-off switch to its horn and data logger. The boards are modular and can be easily replaced in case of malfunctions. Each one of the boards can be considered a very small computer, they explained.

The World Solar Challenge event will take place in October of 2011. Competing teams from around the world will start in Darwin, where after a careful week-long assessment of the safety and functionality of the car, the cars will race across public highways south towards the final destination, Adelaide. The race will cover over 3000km (1890 miles) over the course of seven days and traces a route from the northern tip of Australia to the southern tip. CalSol will compete against an estimated 35 international teams, including squads from the University of Michigan and Stanford.

CalSol, the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team CalSol, is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to design, build, test, and race fully solar powered vehicles. Composed of over fifty undergraduate students from a variety of disciplines, CalSol provides students with hands-on experience with real world engineering, project management, and business aptitude. Through participation in solar races and alternative energy events, the team aims to raise awareness of renewable energy while focusing on the engineering challenges inherent in solar vehicle technology.

For further reading on the potential of renewable energy to power our world check out our post “Windpower, Solar Water Alone Could Power the World by 2030 New Study Claims“, that summarizes a recent study that concludes that the world can provide for all of its energy needs, including electric, transportation, heating/cooling energy needs using only wind, water, and solar power by 2030.

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© 2011, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.

  • daniel maris

    These vehicles are amazing.

    In terms of switching away from fossil fuel dependency for vehicle transport, I think the way forward is now clear. The Better Place battery changing system now being trialled in Israel and Denmark, will mean that we can change batteries at changing stations in the same way we fill up with petrol (but more quickly). This addresses the perennial problem of range.

    Batteries can then be charged en masse by commercial firms, but they can use in particular wind power at times of excess energy.

    The car owner rents the batteries rather than owning them.