Covestro Sustainable mobility of the future with innovative materials

Editor: Briggette Jaya

A group of highly motivated students at the RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Sciences in Germany posed the question: How can we make the mobility of the future as sustainable as possible?

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The car is intended to be used in the probably toughest solar car race in the world, the World Solar Challenge 2017.
The car is intended to be used in the probably toughest solar car race in the world, the World Solar Challenge 2017.
(Source: Covestro_Sonnenwagen Aachen team)

And to find the answer, this group of around 45 junior researchers undertook an ambitious project – to develop a solar-powered electric car for the World Solar Challenge 2017, which very likely is the toughest solar car race in the world, that will be held in Australia from 8-15 October. To make their idea real and to run this project, they formed the “Sonnenwagen Aachen e.V.” association with the support of their professors.

Covestro, leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable material solutions, shares the students’ enthusiasm and has joined them to make the project a success. The company has cultivated a long-term partnership with the university and supports the “Sonnenwagen” (solar car) project both as a material and technical service provider and as a “Gold Sponsor”, and both partners recently signed a co-operation agreement for the project.

“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,” says Dr. Markus Steilemann, Covestro's board member for innovation and chief commercial officer. “Solar mobility can make a key contribution to protecting the climate and conserving fossil resources. With our developments and this project partnership, we want to demonstrate our commitment to innovation and sustainability and our support of junior talents.”

The Leverkusen-based company has already gained extensive experience using its innovative materials for solar mobility – As an official partner of the Solar Impulse project, it made a significant contribution to the success of the first-manned flight around the globe in an aircraft powered exclusively by solar energy, the company says.

Special material for road tests

With the Sonnenwagen project, Covestro can also test various materials under the harsh climate conditions prevailing along the route of the race. Temperatures up to 45°C, high UV radiation and a high dusty-air content are typical weather conditions there in October.

One of the most important product application is a three-layer polyurethane coating from PPG used in automotive coatings that is particularly suited to applications on body parts made of carbon-fibre composites.

The climate conditions have a significant impact on the top clear coat. It is formulated with the bio-based hardener Desmodur eco N 7300 from Covestro, of which 70% of its carbon content is sourced from biomass.

The Sonnenwagen also incorporates polyurethane and polycarbonate materials from Covestro, which contribute to the lightweight and aerodynamic design of the solar car, according to the company.

The Challenge is considered to be the toughest solar race worldwide and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Teams from all over the world compete every two years in their homemade vehicles to win the 3,000-km race from Darwin to Adelaide, without the use of fuel.

The Sonnenwagen from Aachen will be the only German car at the starting line in the Challenger Class this year and the team is very optimistic about its chances: “We already have experience with zero-emission mobility and feel well-equipped to take part in the competition with the other 40 teams or so from five continents,” says Hendrik Löbberding of Sonnenwagen Aachen team.

Two members of the association won the e-Cross Germany, a four-day, climate-neutral rally through North Rhine-Westphalia, in an electric car. A month earlier, Sonnenwagen members accompanied a team from Bochum in the European Solar Challenge 2016, a 24-hour race in solar cars.

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