Panasonic to Sponsor MIT's Solar Vehicle Team

Panasonic Corporation just announced that it will sponsor Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Solar Electric Vehicle Team (SEVT). The team will be competing in the upcoming Global Green Challenge (GCG) to be held in October of this year in Australia. As part of the sponsorship, Panasonic will provide the team with its a high-capacity (2.9 Ah) lithium-ion batteries.

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The MIT SEVT student team will compete in the World Solar Challenge with a solar powered car using Panasonic lithium-ion batteries to store its solar generated power. Separately, Panasonic will provide the same high-capacity, lithium-ion batteries to a team from Japan’s Tokai University which is also competing in the same category.

The Global Green Challenge evolved from the World Solar Challenge, a solar car race first held in 1987 in Australia and managed by the South Australian Motor Sport Board. This year’s competition will mark its 10th year.

Today, the Global Green Challenge includes the World Solar Challenge for solar powered cars, and the Eco Challenge for other types of environmentally conscious production cars including fuel cell, electric and hybrid vehicles.

Teams from around the world will compete, driving across the Australian continent from Darwin in the north, to Adelaide in the south, over a distance of 3,021 km or 1,877 miles.

Solar cars use motors which run on electricity generated by solar panels. Excess electricity is stored in their batteries. The batteries supply electricity to the motor when the electricity from the solar panel is insufficient, due to overcast skies or at night. In other words, the performance of solar cars in races depends not only on the capability of their solar panels, but also the capacity of the batteries and the weight of the battery module.

Panasonic is providing its teams with 18650-type cylindrical high-capacity, lithium-ion battery cells which are then mounted in arrays within a storage battery module. These are the same type of battery cells that are commonly used in laptop computers. Because this type of battery, which features the highest level of energy density, is light and high capacity, it lasts longer and enables making battery modules lighter.

The event begins on October 25, 2009 and people can follow the MIT SEVT’s progress at www.wsc.org.au.

Joanna Schroeder

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.