Covestro backs Sonnenwagen Aachen in World Solar Challenge 2017

By Li Ying Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/12 16:53:39

The Sonnenwagen Aachen solar car Photo: Courtesy of Covestro

Forty-two fully solar-powered cars left Darwin, Australia on October 8 to race a grueling 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) to Adelaide in the 30th anniversary World Solar Challenge.

Every two years for the past 30 years, the World Solar Challenge has welcomed the greatest minds from around the world to Australia to showcase the possibilities of solar vehicles. Most of the cutting-edge cars are expected to finish within the week.

The only German car in the Challenger Class, Sonnenwagen Aachen, built by a team of students at RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Sciences, just made its debut in possibly the world's toughest solar car race.

The students spent two years working on Sonnenwagen Aachen. In developing their first solar car, the Sonnenwagen team was supported by Covestro, a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable material solutions.

The company has enjoyed a long-term partnership with Aachen University and provided materials and technical services.

"As sustainability is part of our strategy, we support this ambitious project in which young researchers want to show that innovative and sustainable mobility concepts are already possible today," said Dr. Markus Steilemann who is Chief Commercial Officer responsible for all commercial functions at Covestro, including innovation. "Solar mobility can make a key contribution to protecting the climate and conserving fossil resources."

Dr. Markus Steilemann, Chief Commercial Officer at Covestro Photo: Courtesy of Covestro

Steilemann will become the company's new CEO in the fall of 2018.

"We want to demonstrate our commitment to innovation and sustainability, but also to supporting young talent," Steilemann said.

Covestro's development strategy has long been to inspire young talent toward sustainable thinking and push the boundaries of innovation.

Covestro previously joined hands with the United Nations Environment's Programme - Young Champions of the Earth, an initiative that aims to support 18-30 year olds with outstanding ideas to save the environment. Six champions will receive $15,000 each in seed funding and intensive mentoring to help bring their ideas to life.

Sonnenwagen Aachen is the ambitious answer given by the highly motivated students in Aachen and Covestro to making mobility of the future as sustainable as possible.

"Covestro cooperates with the Sonnenwagen team on the company's current technology and wants to test various materials under harsh climate conditions," said Rebecca Lee, Managing Director, Covestro Australia.

"We hope to demonstrate the materials can perform equally as well as conventional materials before we get to the commercializing part."

The most important product application is a three-layer polyurethane coating from PPG, a leading global manufacturer of automotive coatings. Along the route, Sonnenwagen will pass through the Outback's temperatures of up to 45 C, high ultraviolet radiation and extreme dust.

The Sonnenwagen team unveils the solar race car at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Photo: Courtesy of Covestro

Sonnenwagen has also incorporated polyurethane and polycarbonate materials from Covestro. They contribute to the lightweight, aerodynamic design of the car. In 2016, Covestro played a key role in the Solar Impulse, the world's first solar plane to fly around the world without fuel. Covestro made the 25-kilo cockpit, lightweight yet strong enough to protect the pilots during multi-day flights.

"Our lightweight solar car weighs about 200 kilos, which is only about a quarter of a normal car," said Niklas Kaltz, Co-Chairman, Team Sonnenwagen that comprises 45 junior researchers. "We also built in high energy efficiency to let the car go as fast as it can go."

According to Kaltz, the car can race at 124 kilometers an hour. He didn't reveal how much they spent on building the race car, but said the money mostly came from sponsors including Covestro, Huawei Germany and Porsche.

Technology giant Huawei supported the team by supplying smooth communications among team members during the competition, especially in the autonomous driving environment.

"This project brings a lot of things together, which are very fancy from the German perspective," said Torsten Kuepper, Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs, Huawei Technologies Deutschland.

"You have cars, and the automotive industry is very prominent in Germany. You have innovation, clean solar energy. You have students and competition."


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