While electric vehicles are gaining popularity as a common way of getting from A to B, reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and leading to a cleaner environment, ESA has always been a strong believer in the utility of electric power – and especially from renewable sources such as the Sun.
Now a group of students from the Saxion University of Applied Sciences and the University of Twente are taking this concept to the limit by racing a solar-powered car in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The route will take Solar Team Twente, and more than 50 teams from 30 countries on a challenging journey across Australia. To be successful, their car RED-E, must travel the 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide using only the energy of the Sun and a bare minimum of maintenance.
This is very similar to the journeys taken by ESA’s space missions, and on this particular occasion Solar Team Twente have benefited from a gift of spare solar panels from ESA’s JUICE mission. Like RED-E, JUICE will take the capabilities of solar power to the limit by traveling to Jupiter, five times farther away from the Sun than Earth.
Giuseppe Sarri, the Project Manager for JUICE, gave more details on ESA’s involvement, “ESA has provided Solar Team Twente with more than 1000 solar cells for the solar-powered car which will participate in the World Solar Challenge. The cells are from the same batch of those which will power the solar array of the JUICE spacecraft.”
The races start on 13 October from Darwin and the first teams are expected to cross the finish line in Adelaide around 17 October. It’s not known if having some additional ‘JUICE’ in their favour will help Solar Team Twente in their competition, but even so, as Sarri explains, “This is an excellent example of technology transfer from a space product to a ground application and one of the reasons why we do space programmes."
And of course, good luck to Solar Team Twente and the rest of the teams taking part in this year’s event.
Solar Team Twente
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