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Aston will use solar panels to keep drivers cool

2014-06-24 Read: 238x

The Chinese company is exploring wider applications of its technologies and investigating how solar can be incorporated into new areas to improve efficiency and enhance performance as part of its ambitious growth strategy.

Aston Martin Racing, which won the GTE Am class at the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Le Mans on Sunday, has formed a partnership with Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group to explore the use of the thin-film technology for an independent air conditioning system.

In line with current FIA WEC regulations, GT cars must be fitted with an air conditioning system that keeps the temperature of the cockpit below 32 degrees centigrade or 12 degrees above ambient temperature.

High temperatures in the race car can have extremely negative effects on drivers and, with the WEC travelling to hot destinations such Austin, Texas, and Bahrain, it remains a top priority for the teams. However, running air conditioning causes loss of power to the engine and negatively affects the car’s fuel efficiency.

"It's a bit of a balancing game at the moment,” said Dan Sayers, chief engineer at Aston Martin Racing. “The air conditioning system uses engine power, however, keeping the drivers cool and more comfortable is essential. If we can find a solution that keeps the driver cool without the negative effects on performance then it could have a really positive impact on GT racing."

Aston Martin Racing’s Team Principal John Gaw added, “We aren’t looking at solar power technology for our race cars because it is a green option. We are looking at how we can use the power of the sun to improve the comfort of our race cars for our drivers and therefore increase our performance on track. However, we are looking at how we can improve our green credentials as a business now that we are moving to new premises."

The partnership is in line with Hanergy Solar’s ambitious growth plans as it explores wider applications of its technologies and investigates how solar power can be incorporated into new areas to improve efficiency and enhance performance.

Jason Chow, executive president of Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group, said the company was adapting its thin film technologies for cars in such a way that a thin layer of cells could “be applied to the roof or rear windscreen to power the air conditioning or other ancillary functions without affecting the performance of the car or using the fuel or battery source. The engineers at Aston Martin Racing are helping us to apply our technology and eventually to put it to the test in the most extreme of automotive environments."

Aston Martin Racing is continually improving the comfort of its range of Vantage race cars that compete in championships around the world and the technology could be introduced to the V12 Vantage GT3 and V8 Vantage GT4 once developed.

The project will run throughout 2014 with the engineers developing the technology at Aston Martin Racing’s premises ahead of the next round of the WEC, the Six Hours of Austin, at the Circuit of the Americas.

Prodrive, which runs Aston Martin Racing on behalf of the British automaker, will move to new premises in Banbury, England, next year and the company is also looking at the possibility of integrating Hanergy Solar’s thin film solar technologies into the new building.

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