Funding from Yokohama Tire Canada helps launch Sunstang student solar car project

Funding from Yokohama Tire Canada helps launch Sunstang student solar car project

Funding from Yokohama Tire Canada helps launch Sunstang student solar car project

LONDON, Ontario (March 10, 2010) – Sponsorship from Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. will help an enthusiastic team of engineering students explore a new approach to making solar-powered electric cars practical for use in everyday driving.

The Sunstang solar car program at the University of Western Ontario will receive financial sponsorship from Yokohama to investigate a new car design that separates the vehicle from the solar charging system.

Yokohama, along with one of its largest retail partners Tirecraft Canada, are the first corporate supporters of the project, which will see the student team design, engineer and build a three-wheel car powered by electricity derived from the sun.

For more than a decade, universities around the world have fielded student-built solar-powered cars for a variety of competitions. Most attempts utilize a power-as-you-go design that involves incorporating a large array of solar cells into the car to generate power that is used immediately. When the sun stops generating electrical power via the solar cells, the vehicle stops, too.

The UWO project differs in a number of ways, explains Geoff Gauthier, project manager for the Sunstang.

First, he says, this car isn’t built for a specific competition. Student competitions, says Gauthier, are no longer the hotbed of innovation they were back in 1993 when UWO students first built a solar car. “The competitions had hit a kind of saturation,” Gauthier says. “There was no real improvement in the technology coming from them.”

Sunstang, says Gauthier, looks in a new direction. It is meant to tackle the real-world problems facing electric car designers and builders. “We spent a year analyzing what we should build, and why,” he explains. “We wanted to research the real issues that the electric car would face over the next 15 years.”

The new design envisions a single-passenger electric commuter car paired with a residential solar recharging station. The design will use a removable, replaceable battery array able to provide faster recharging times. One battery pack will remain in the charging station while another is being consumed in driving. The car will be powered by a three-phase induction motor that is 97 per cent efficient.

Yokohama Canada marketing manager Jonathon Karelse sees the sponsorship as an investment in the future of every electric car.

“The research and development of electric car technology is expanding exponentially. From low rolling resistance tires to light-weight components to battery efficiency, electric cars are drawing research and engineering talent from across a broad spectrum,” Karelse maintains. “Yokohama is in the transportation business. Our specialty is tires, and we have committed to leading in light-weight, low rolling resistance, environmentally superior tires. But if we are going to continue to lead, we will have to be close to all the developments in this exciting field. The Sunstang project is one of those opportunities to be in on the ground floor.”

The student team expects to unveil their design early in May of this year and show a drivable model by the end of May. Tentative plans for the Sunstang include an attempt to drive the car across Canada, and visits to major Canadian car shows.

“This is very costly and support from companies like Yokohama make what we do possible,” Gauthier adds.

Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. markets and distributes a full line of tires for high performance, passenger car, light truck, and commercial truck applications, as well as off-the-road tires for mining, forestry and construction applications. It maintains distribution centres across Canada to serve more than 700 independent tire dealers and more than 2,000 retail locations.

University of Western Ontario Sunstang project:


Jonathon Karelse
Marketing Manager
Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc.
604 546 9656 x 1143

Doug Mepham
MacDonald & Co.
613 966 4969