Two student teams, one from KU Leuven and one from the University of Michigan, were sponsored by Teijin Aramid to compete in the ‘Challenger’ category of this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, held between October 8-12 2017 in Australia. Powered only by solar energy, the two teams raced from Darwin to Adelaide, over the course of five days. Thanks in part to Teijin Aramid’s high-performance materials and technical expertise, the University of Michigan ranked second and the KU Leuven team ranked third out of 32 teams
Super performances under pressure
As competitors at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, both Teijin Aramid-sponsored teams had to race 3,021km across the Australian outback. The race is famous for its tough environmental conditions: participating teams have to deal with extreme heat, strong winds, and, sometimes, even kangaroos. Despite these challenges, and tough competition from many other international student teams, the teams from the University of Michigan (UM) and KU Leuven performed outstandingly, finishing second and third respectively, with average speeds of 77.1km/h and 76.2km/h. These performances were the product of over a year’s dedicated preparation, designing, constructing, and testing their vehicles. The resulting performances are not only an example of how efficient solar-powered transportation can be, but also of how Teijin Aramid’s materials can help deliver higher energy efficiency and higher-performance standards to the automotive industry.
Twaron: Special properties for special cars
In the lead up to the race, both teams were supplied with Teijin Aramid’s para-aramid fiber Twaron, which they used in slightly different ways to their advantage. “Twaron® fabric was incorporated into the undercarriage of our car, as well as the sidewalls and roll cage of the chassis,” says Bennet McGlade, Chassis Lead, UM Solar Team. “Specifically, the inclusion of Twaron in the undercarriage boosted the laminates’ abrasion resistance, limiting the amount of repairs the team had to do during the race, as well as helping to preserve the structural integrity of the carbon fiber layers. All in all, Teijin Aramid was crucial to our team’s second-place finish.”
“As with the UM team, our performance was underpinned by the high-performance properties of Teijin Aramid’s materials,” says Adriaan Buntinx, Production Manager.
KU Leuven Solar Team. “We used Twaron-based parts above the tracking box and in the driver safety canopy to allow electromagnetic signals to enter and leave the vehicle. As the car’s panels are made from conductive composites, a Faraday cage would have been created without the Twaron-based parts, which would have prevented the car from being able to send or receive communications or monitoring signals. In addition, thanks to Twaron, we were able to build a solar car weighing only 143kg!”
Teijin Aramid: A key race partner
Throughout the race preparation period, Teijin Aramid not only provided the teams with high-performance materials, but also shared technical advice and expertise. “Our collaboration with Teijin Aramid went very smoothly,” says Adriaan. “My contact person was Lilian Michaelsson. From the beginning, she was very enthusiastic about the entire project. She did everything in her power to put us in contact with the right Teijin Aramid people, and she helped us find the right solutions to our problems.”
“Throughout this whole build process, Teijin Aramid was incredibly helpful,” says John Petrie, Business Manager, UM Solar Team. “Coming into this race, our team had limited experience using and designing with aramid products. The advice and support given by the technical experts at Teijin was key to our success.
They were also very committed to the partnership and went above and beyond to meet our team’s fast-paced timeline. Additionally, they were incredibly helpful to the team’s sourcing efforts beyond our aramid needs by connecting us with Teijin’s carbon fiber division Toho Tenax, which is used extensively throughout the car, and by putting us in touch with contacts they had with fiberglass suppliers. The entire Teijin organization has consistently been an ideal partner for the team – our thanks go out to them!”