x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Students steer towards solar-hybrid car

A university professor in Sharjah hopes to combine solar-powered and hybrid-car technologies to produce a "completely self-sufficient" vehicle that can run day and night.

A university professor in Sharjah hopes to combine solar-powered and hybrid-car technologies to produce a "completely self-sufficient" vehicle that can run day and night. "The solar-powered car runs when it's sunny, while the hybrid car has a small internal combustion engine for when the batteries run out," said Dr Ameen el Sinawi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the American University of Sharjah.

"We want to make a car that doesn't rely on any type of fossil fuel." The vehicle would be solar-powered, but could, like a hybrid, store the energy from braking and going downhill to recharge the batteries. As a result, the batteries would last longer, allowing the vehicle to operate even at night. A team of 10 students is working on an improved solar-powered car after the university produced one called the Siemens Sunchaser in 2008 and 2009.

This straight-edged vehicle, crafted from aluminium and carbon fibre panels, was thought to be the first solar-powered car made from scratch by students in the UAE. "We have learnt a lot of lessons from the old car," Dr el Sinawi said. "We are trying to improve the new one by cutting down the weight by 40 per cent." Dr el Sinawi said the team was using new flexible solar panels that would make the car more aerodynamic. Another team of eight students is creating a hybrid vehicle.

After the two cars are built, the university plans to create a vehicle that combines both technologies. Dr el Sinawi said this could be 20 per cent more efficient than a standard solar-powered car. "If both projects work, then it's viable that you can combine the two, although it's going to take a little while before it's done," he said. dbardsley@thenational.ae