For a few years now, a team of highly motivated students from RWTH Aachen University and FH Aachen has been working on the question of how to make electric mobility even more sustainable. Their goal is to develop a solar-powered electric car to take part in the toughest solar car races in the world. After the successful initial participation at the World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2017 as "Best Newcomer" and the achievement of the third place at the European Solar Challenge 2018, the team now wants to take the next step based on the accumulated experience and in the World Solar Challenge 2019 attack the world leaders around the teams from Stanford, Delft and Cambridge.
Covestro, a leading global provider of innovative and sustainable material solutions, shares the students' enthusiasm and will work with them to push existing boundaries to make the project a success. The company has a long-standing partnership with the renowned RWTH Aachen University and, following the successful and fruitful cooperation in the 2017 season, is supporting the solar car project with a variety of materials and technical services as well as being the main sponsor. Both partners have now signed a cooperation agreement on the project.
Partnership for solar mobility
"Sustainability is a core component of our corporate strategy, and solar mobility can make an important contribution to climate protection and the conservation of fossil resources," says Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro. "That is why we are supporting this ambitious project and intensifying our cooperation with the Sonnenwagen team. We use our innovative materials to provide solutions for future mobility. With this project, we are also promoting young talents.”
Markus Eckstein, first chairman of the Sonnenwagen team, welcomes the extended partnership: "We are very pleased to have Covestro back as a supporter. The cooperation with Covestro was already an important mainstay at the recent World Solar Challenge and helped us to reach the finish line in Adelaide as ´Best Newcomer´. The Sonnenwagen team can once again benefit from the high level of material expertise.”
Innovative materials for future mobility
The Leverkusen-based company has already gained some experience in solar mobility with innovative material developments: As an official partner of the Solar Impulse project, it made an important contribution to the success of the first manned, round-the-world flight with an airplane powered only by solar energy.
The test of a polyurethane car repair clearcoat from PPG at the World Challenge 2017, in which the biobased hardener Desmodur® eco N 7300 from Covestro was used, was also successful. It also withstood the harsh climatic conditions in Australia.
The material and development cooperation will now be further expanded for 2019. A Covestro development team will be involved in the production plans of the solar car in order to contribute to an even lighter and more aerodynamic solar car design.
Successful start at the European Solar Challenge
As a first step on the way to Australia, the Sonnenwagen team has already successfully mastered the European Solar Challenge on the former Formula 1 race track in Zolder, Belgium. The aim of the race is not only to cover the greatest possible distance within 24 hours, but also to score points with innovations in vehicle development, the most constant 8-lap times and the fastest lap driven. The Sonnenwagen team was able to finish the toughest 24-hour race for solar vehicles in third place in the Challenger class.
"It couldn't get any better; despite the very difficult race course and the adverse weather conditions, we were able to get the optimum out of the race result," said first team chairman Markus Eckstein after the race. "We are confident that we will be able to take the upturn in success in Belgium with us to Australia and start there with a view to the podium as well.”
In addition, two members of the association won with an electric car now three years in a row at the e-CROSS Germany, a four-day, climate-neutral rally through North Rhine-Westphalia.
World's toughest solar race
The World Solar Challenge is considered to be the toughest solar race on earth and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. Every two years, teams from all over the world compete to be the fastest to cover the 3,000 kilometer stretch from Darwin to Adelaide with homemade vehicles – without a drop of fuel.
With 2017 sales of EUR 14.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,200 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2017.
About Sonnenwagen Aachen:
Sonnenwagen Aachen is an association registered since September 2015 and consists of 40 committed students of the RWTH Aachen University and the FH Aachen University of Applied Science. The aim of the association is to design and manufacture a solar-powered electric vehicle and to take part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in October 2017 – an emission-free race across the Australian outback. As the only German team in the Challenger class, Team Sonnenwagen Aachen will compete with other international teams on the 3,022 km-long track. The central objective underlying participation in the races is to raise society's awareness regarding the issue of sustainable mobility and to contribute to the development of appropriate technologies.