Xenith: Tenth Times the Charm?
When you're a small, under-funded undergraduate university team going up against some of the world's mega-corporations, it's not easy developing a competitive solar-powered car, but the young men and women at Stanford aren't letting that little obstacle stand in their way. They are building the most advanced solar car yet developed on campus since the program began in 1989.
Since then engineering students have designed, built and competed with ten solar-powered cars in the daunting World Solar Challenge, held every two years in Australia. This year's team is made up of many of the same members who participated in the 2009 endurance race across the breadth of the Australian outback from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south. Ben Stabler, a third year engineering student, is one of them; and in this EV World 'Future in Motion Podcast' he talks about his experiences driving the 2009 car and in helping build the 2011vehicle, the smallest the team has ever built. In fact, Xenith is so small, Stabler can't fit into it. That'll be left to smaller team members this year, one of them a female engineering student.
For its diminutive size and weight of 165 kg (363 lbs.), it has surprising performance. It's able to cruise along on at 55 mph on just 1100 watts of energy. That's 200 watts less than the 6 square meters of advanced photovoltaic cells put out on an average, allowing the car to keep its battery pack charged most of the day. The team thinks the car can actually go significantly faster then this; theoretically as high as well over 100 mph for short sprints.
The 3000 km race north to south attracts teams from all around the world, some significantly better funded than the Stanford group, who has received in-kind support from Silicon Valley companies with cutting edge technology, including Volkswagen, which has an electronics research and development lab on the Stanford campus. However, the team still is looking for some $26,000 in support for the logistics of getting the car to Australia and arranging for the team's support vehicles while there. Every entrant has to have a vehicle traveling in front and behind for reasons of safety.
The World Solar Challenge begins in October and the best teams complete the event in around 5 days, racing only during daylight hours for both safety and practical reasons: Australia has spun away from facing the Sun and the moon isn't a very efficient reflector.
To learn more about the team and to contribute to their efforts, visit Stanford Solar Car Project web site. You can listen to the 31-minute interview in its entirety using the MP3 players embedded on the page in the right-hand column. Or you may download the file to your computer for playback on your favorite MP3 device.