Zapopan students and one of their solar cars. Zapopan students and one of their solar cars.

100% solar vehicle exceeds 100 km/h

Jalisco students build three as part of school project

Secondary and preparatory school students from Zapopan, Jalisco, have designed and built three highly-efficient solar-powered vehicles. But they’re not done yet: an airplane may be next.

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The 11 students at the private school SuBiré were part of a school-wide project to research how solar power can be transformed into motive power.

The project’s guidelines established that the vehicle must reach a speed of 40 kilometers per hour and travel for more than two hours. The resulting prototypes surpassed everyone’s expectations, said the school principal.

“The vehicles have exceeded speeds of 100 kilometers per hour, have a range of more than four hours and they’re being powered 100% by solar energy . . . These vehicles cost less than 50,000 pesos and the students are ready to patent their designs. They’ve also been given the chance to have official license plates on them, enabling the vehicles to travel freely,” said Julio César Saucedo de la Llata.

“The best laboratory, for me, are my students. We approached several technological disciplines like robotics and 3D-printing. [The students] had to learn to use tools and machinery to build several car parts, including a chassis. They also learned about photovoltaics, the inner workings of a motor and that there are several kinds,” said the students’ science and robotics professor.

The youths also had to research how many effective sunlight hours they had available in Zapopan — which turned out to be six per day — and how to collect radiation at night, added Luis Armando Martínez.

The students’ research and development project takes on greater importance when one considers that Guadalajara — Zapopan lies within its metropolitan area — is the most motorized city in Latin America, and that in the near future it could face pollution issues worse than those experienced in Mexico City.

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While a gasoline-powered car harnesses only 60% of its fuel, a solar powered vehicle harnesses 95% of the energy it receives.

The most important lesson for the students was to have confidence in themselves: “At the beginning we were skeptical . . . but we learned a great deal about techniques, mechanics, physics and chemistry. A lot of teamwork and cooperation was needed,” said Gabriel Montijo, 17, who after the experience has decided to become a biomedical engineer.

“It took six months to build the car. Four months were dedicated to design, all the technicalities and calculations”, said Eduardo Méndez, 17, who plans to pursue a career in computational systems once he completes preparatory school.

“The students’ creation could transform the automotive industry,” said the school principal. And that’s not all: “They’re also planning to design a solar-powered passenger plane.”

“Education in Mexico must shift from being a purely theoretical discipline to a more pragmatic one, enabling youths to start their own enterprises,” said Saucedo de la Llata.

Source: Excélsior (sp)

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  • Richard Fryer

    … a few technical questions… with the absence of solar panels on the car itself one must assume it’s battery driven, with it’s energy derived from a solar array. Given how Mexican drivers… ummm drive ?!?…. I wouldn’t want to be on any perifico come rush hour unprotected in that dune-buggy like vehicle… it looks better suited for a golf course or gated community with a strict speed limit. The scribe should do some research on gas ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. There are no ICE that get 60% fuel efficiency. At best most only get between 25% and 30%, and only just recently has Toyota developed a turbo ICE engine of radical design that gets 40% fuel efficiency. These kids sound like great engineering prospects, and considering the pollution and smog problems in ‘Mexico’, and which occurs in Guadalajara at times, way forward is to promote the use of electric powered vehicles.

  • David Nichols

    My BS meter is at 85%…No solar panels on the car, no sufficient battery energy storage visible, and almost all of the vehicle is visible…Even an electric golf cart needs 6 substantial batteries to achieve 4 to 5 hours run time, at a maximum of 16 to 25/kph…It would obviously take more energy storage to achieve 100/kph and a run time of 4 hours.
    And BTW, those tires are not conducive to low rolling resistance, which is a priority for an electric powered vehicle…
    Sorry, doesn’t pass the smell test…

    • Thomas Ramage

      You’re right. Technology certainly never advances. That’s why we’re still drilling holes in heads with corkscrews to alleviate headaches and using stone as our exclusive material of choice for tools.

  • Happygirl

    Wow…is what I was going to say until I read the comments…geez. The idea that heavy large solar panels must somehow be attached to “solar powered” vehicles is so old school. Battery technology has really advanced and the use of storing the sun’s energy in batteries is the way to go. The latest news in battery technology is that of a battery that never dies…just needs to be recharged. Batteries are getting smaller and golf carts have not kept up with today’s technology. Long thin batteries can be mounted on the underside of the chassis. Electric wheelchairs and handicapped vehicles need smaller and lighter batteries…and cheaper energy sources. We live in interesting times…I never dreamed of 3D printing, the advancements in DNA and the human genome, or my hand held tablet…to me nothing is impossible. So, Wow, double Wow.

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