When the Stanford Solar Car competes in this month’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) race, the car will be powered by Alta Devices solar technology. This year, for the first time in BWSC history, a solar car will use flexible, glass-free solar that also delivers high levels of power, and can also be manufactured at cost-effective prices. Not only is this a big step for the team, the race, and Alta Devices, but it provides a vision of what solar technology might look like for mass-market automotive.
“For solar to be realistic for the broad auto market, it needs to have several important characteristics,” said Jian Ding, Alta Devices CEO. “It must be flexible enough to conform to the surfaces of innovative vehicle designs, maintain high efficiency even in the hottest weather conditions, and be manufacturable at scale.”
To date, solar technology used on solar race cars, luxury cars, or concept vehicles has typically been silicon solar or specialized solar developed for space applications. Silicon solar, while low-cost, is very brittle, which makes it difficult to handle and integrate into curved automotive surfaces. Silicon has relatively low energy conversion efficiency compared with other materials, making it harder to generate the desired amount of power from the limited area of a car roof. Moreover, silicon solar quickly becomes warm during operation and loses efficiency as temperatures rise. Overall, this results in less vehicle range or available power per day. Space solar cells are high efficiency, but like silicon, very brittle and don’t manage heat well. In addition, the traditional complex and time-consuming manufacturing process makes them very expensive.
Alta Devices thin-film gallium arsenide solar technology is a newer technology relative to silicon and space solar. It is flexible, lightweight, high-efficiency, and has structural properties that allow it to run much cooler. It can also be produced at mass-market scale.
About the 2019 BWSC and the Stanford Solar Car Project (SSCP)
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) is the world’s best-known solar-powered car race. The road race is over 30 years old, held every two years in the Australian outback, and covers a challenging route more than 3000 kilometers (1864 miles) long from Darwin to Adelaide. Over 50 teams, composed of students from high schools and colleges, will compete in pushing the limits of technological innovation.
The race rules mandate that the cars must be designed, built, and raced by the teams, and run primarily on solar power, with very limited use of stored energy.
The 2019 SSCP solar car, called “Black Mamba” has a new sleek design versus previous team cars, and the Stanford team built a custom oven to cure the large shell composites in. The car is the 14th solar car that the Stanford team has designed. This year’s design is asymmetrical with a single aerodynamic shell covering the body. Alta Devices solar cells have been integrated onto the top surface of the vehicle.
Due to the ability of the solar to flex, the curves of the vehicle design were preserved. Jian Ding explains, “In the future, mass-market electric vehicles will be designed for long-range, as well as safety, and sustainability. They will use extremely light-weight and aerodynamic materials. Solar will be incorporated to seamlessly cover the body of the car, maximize range, and power auxiliary systems. Whenever there is sunlight, the car will always be charging.”
About Alta Devices
Alta Devices is Empowering Autonomy™ by delivering the world’s most efficient, thin and flexible mobile power technology. By converting light of any kind into electricity, Alta Devices AnyLight™ power technology extends the energy source of a system, and in many cases, completely cuts the traditional power cord. The solution can be completely integrated into the final system, and is ideal for use in small satellites, unmanned systems, consumer electronics, sensors, automotive, remote exploration, or anywhere size, weight, and mobility matter. Alta Devices holds world records for energy conversion efficiency and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA. For more information, visit www.altadevices.com. Alta Devices is a Hanergy company.