The World Solar Challenge, taking place this week in Australia, features hyper-efficient solar cars traveling from Darwin to Adelaide—some 3000 kilometers (over 1800 miles) to the south. The event represents the ultimate in automotive lightweighting. As the World Solar Challenge website notes:
It’s all about energy management! Based on the original notion that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy, which is 10% of that theoretical figure. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle.
Plasmatreat is thrilled to have a horse in this race, so to speak. Atmospheric plasma pretreatment of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the Punch Powertrain Solar Team’s racing car, Punch One, is an integral part of the car’s speed and strength.
Stiffening ribs in previous iterations of the car, necessary to protect it from strong race-condition vibrations, had been laminated—but this process required multiple layers and lengths of prepeg strips, a labor-intensive process that also increased weight. Plasma pretreatment enabled the use of Loctite EA 466 instead, a fast-curing two-component epoxy resin adhesive.
The production manager of the 16-strong solar car team – who is just 23 years old – enthusiastically backs his team’s decision to use atmospheric pressure plasma in the new car to improve the adhesion of the CFRP components. This approach not only greatly reduced the time taken to pretreat the CFRP, but also achieved a 3 kg weight savings compared with the previous method.
CFRP is 60 percent lighter than steel and around 30 percent lighter than aluminum, but extremely stable. The total weight of Punch One is just 165 kg (around 364 lbs.), with the heaviest single component being the solar battery.
Needless to say, we are excited and proud to cheer on our contender as it traverses Australia this week. Go Punch One!Recommend