It ain’t heavy … it’s composite

January 1st, 2016 / By: / Projects

The Cruiser Class teams in the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge solar car race entered vehicles designed to change the way people think about what they drive and what fuels they use. Photos: Teijin Group
The Cruiser Class teams in the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge solar car race entered vehicles designed to change the way people think about what they drive and what fuels they use. Photos: Teijin Group

The world’s largest solar car race was held in Australia this year from Oct. 18–25. Forty-three teams from 20 countries competed in the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on a 3,000 km (1,864 mile) course. The race is not just about speed: Energy management is key. Based on the concept that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the vehicle’s kinetic energy.

Not surprisingly, weight is a significant factor. The second-place winner in the Cruiser Class was OWL, an advanced solar-powered car developed by Kogakuin University in Tokyo, Japan. It featured a two-seater body that weighed just 55 pounds and was lightest among all the cars in the race. The all-carbon-composite body was made of Tenax®, an ultra-lightweight, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic from the Teijin Group, Tokyo, Japan. Tenax is as thin as 0.06 mm, yet still offers high tensile strength with superior fatigue and abrasion characteristics.

Tenax was developed by Teijin’s Toho Tenax Co. Ltd., together with Fukui-City, Japan-based Sakai Ovex Co. Ltd. GH Craft Ltd., the Teijin Group’s composite structure design development and evaluation unit, helped to design and produce the car body.

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