It is not often that we come across electric automobiles powered by the sun’s energy. The reason is simple enough – the evolving technology is still in its nascent stage. But as an Indian, I am proud to say some engineering students from the Manipal University have taken the scope of feasible solar cars one step closer to commercial reality – with their aptly christened Solar Electric Road Vehicle (or SERVe).
The group of 27 budding engineers bill themselves as the SolarMobil team, and their fascinating contrivance entails a two-seater car ‘greenly’ powered by electric and solar energy. The development time behind the incredible endeavor ranges over a period of three years, with the first SolarMobil-made car being actually unveiled back in 2011. As for the current Version 2.0 vehicle, the team is still working on endowing the SERVe with a sleek aerodynamic body, while also upgrading its calibration and other automotive improvements.
All of these serious development patterns pertain to a definite goal – SolarMobil is gearing up to make their foray in the 2014 South African Solar Challenge (SASOL14), an international racing event that only allows solar-powered automobiles. The race parameters are grueling to say the least, as they require the individual cars to cover an astronomical distance of 4,000 km, and that too along the rugged terrains of the unforgiving South African countryside.
However, SolarMobil must surely be looking at this as an opportunity to test the robust limits of their advanced electric automotive design. To that end, the SERVe currently has the capacity to achieve highest speeds of up to 120 km/hr (with 60 km/hr being just fueled by solar power), while its arguably more-important range on a single charge can cover a distance of around 350 km.
Interestingly, beyond just specifications, there is another crucial factor that makes the SERVe special in its own right. The cost of development for the solar-powered car came around at $50,000 (around INR 3,000,000) which is a whopping 30 times cheaper than comparable entries in the SASOL14. Furthermore, the project is being supported by some big names in the automotive industry, including TATA Motors, Element14, Agni Motors, Altair Hyperworks and others.
Check the video below for more info –