The future is bright for solar hybrid car
Engineering students at the University of Adelaide have launched their plans to design and build a hybrid solar-electric car.
The project involves 13 final-year students from the University's School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering.
The vehicle will incorporate a revolutionary `skateboard' chassis for improved handling, safety and design flexibility, said the project team's Managing Director, student Aaron Russell.
"At the moment a commercially viable solar-electric hybrid vehicle doesn't exist," Aaron said. "But as fuel costs rise and public awareness of environmental issues grows, solar power and electricity become increasingly viable.
"Our overall project aim is to design and build a commercially viable hybrid vehicle. We think our manufacturing method, combined with the latest technology, has the potential to lay the foundation for a real alternative to petroleum-based vehicles."
The student team recently launched their project to motor vehicle and engineering industry representatives.
"The project launch was a great success, with all company representatives in attendance agreeing to support the project in one way or another," Aaron said.
Adelaide-based Internet provider Internode has emerged as the major sponsor so far, providing $20,000 towards the project.
"Internode has shown us overwhelming support, which is a great vote of confidence in the students and what they can achieve," Aaron said.
"Support like this means that our team can design to a higher budget and ultimately design and produce a better product with less budgeting constraints."
Aaron said the students would gain a lot of invaluable practical experience from working on such an innovative vehicle.
"In this project, with such a large scope, we can apply a systems approach to engineering, where the car is broken down into systems and then broken down again into subsystems. Applied to design, it is much easier to work on and also much easier to manage," he said.
Aaron said the solar-electric hybrid car was the only cross-School student project being undertaken in engineering.
"I think the students enjoy the opportunity to work with another discipline, and this may lead the way for further interaction between the disciplines," he said.
The student team is working under the supervision of Dr Colin Kestell, Senior Lecturer in the School of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Nesimi Ertugrul, Senior Lecturer in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering.
The students would like to hear from anyone interested in sponsoring their project. Please contact Aaron Russell on 0401 927 502 or Dean Caruso on 0401 021 585.
Story by Robyn Mills and David Ellis