World's fastest solar car of the Philippines is ready to Fly to Australia

Philippines will lead from First Solar Powered boat to Solar powered car as the Worlds’ fastest

Sikat II, the country’s third solar powered car made by Filipino students, made its first public appearance via a test run at the 83-kilometer North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in preparation for the 2011 World Solar Challenge in Australia on Oct. 16 to 23.

Ramon Agustines, president of the Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society Inc., said the presence of solar cars shows that solar energy is now being utilized in the country.

Agustines said Sikat II has the potential to top the World Solar Challenge due to some improvements in its design and mechanical features.

It sports a sleek and aerodynamic body made of lightweight carbon fiber-honeycomb composite.

It is lighter compared to Sinag which joined the same competition in 2007.

“Sikat II only weighs 170 to 180 kilograms compared to Sinag,” Agustines said, citing that the latter placed 12th in the 2007 race.

“This means that Sikat II can reach top speed in shorter time and can reserve more energy during the race which is needed in increasing speed,” he said.

For his part, Jack Catalan, team leader of Sikat II and a professor of the De La Salle University - Philippines, said like Sinag, Sikat II can reach a top speed of 120 to 130 kilometers per hour.

“We used the same motor for Sinag and Sikat, but Sikat II is lighter and will have more energy during the race,” he said.

Catalan said they held the test run at the NLEX because they want to simulate the 3,000-kilometer stretch between Darwin and Adelaide in Australia where the race will be held.

“We thank the Manila North Tollways Corporation for allowing us to have our test run along the NLEX,” Catalan said, adding that this will help them identify problems in the car or improvements that have to be made.

“We used the same motor for Sinag and Sikat, but Sikat II is lighter and will have more energy during the race,” he said.

Catalan said they held the test run at the NLEX because they want to simulate the 3,000-kilometer stretch between Darwin and Adelaide in Australia where the race will be held.

“We thank the Manila North Tollways Corporation for allowing us to have our test run along the NLEX,” Catalan said, adding that this will help them identify problems in the car or improvements that have to be made.

He, however, noted one limitation of Sikat II – it cannot run when it is raining because it was designed and built for the Australian race.

“We gave more priority to the design and sleekness and less attention on the waterproofing because there is less rain where the race will be held,” he said.

Catalan also said building Sikat II highlights the capability of Filipinos to lead in terms of sustainable energy technology.

While it was pioneered by the Philippine Solar Car Society, it was designed and developed by 22 students and three professors from the Mechanical Engineering and Electronics Engineering departments of DLSU.

This project is also supported by First Gen Corporation, First Philec Solar, Energy Development Corp. and Sunpower - Philippines.

Better solar cells Made in the Philippines

Recently, the The world’s largest and most advanced solar-powered boat, the M/S Tûranor Planet Solar, is proof that energy harnessed from the heat of the sun can power practically everything—from pocket-sized calculators to cruise ships.

The Solar powered ship is exclusively powered by 38,000 high-efficiency solar cells all produced in the Philippines at the manufacturing facilities of SunPower Corporation. Already, it has won two accolades – the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a solar-powered vessel and the longest distance covered by a solar-powered electric vehicle, according to WWF.

Now, the Philippines is taking a move for the solar powered car to be the “Worlds Fastest Solar Car with the speed of 120 to 130 Km/h.

But aside from better design, Catalan said the Philippines has a chance of inching away from competing countries—which would include the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, among many others—due to the new solar cells fitted into the car, which he claims is more efficient in harnessing solar power.

"The Sikat II now sports better efficiency solar cells from SunPower. We expect our chances to be better this year because in previous races, the teams who couldn't afford such silicon-type cells were at a disadvantage," Catalan explained.

SunPower is a multinational company that manufactures solar cells in its two wafer plants in Laguna and Batangas, Philippines.

The more than 300 solar cells used by the Sikat II solar-powered car are the same ones fitted into the MS Tûranor, the world's largest solar-powered boat, which made a stopover in Manila in late July, some members of Team Solar Philippines confirm.

According to SunPower's website, its high-efficiency cells are believed to be 50 percent more efficient than traditional solar cells.

Catalan revealed that in building the car alone, the team spent some P7 million pesos, much less than the minimum amount spent by most teams, which is pegged at about $600,000.

"But we're hoping that may not be a constraint," he stressed.

In the bi-annual competition, Sikat II's mettle will be tested against various elements as it makes its way through the 3,000-kilometer track on the Stuart Highway, a road that extends from Darwin, the capital of the North Territory, to Adelaide in South Australia.

In 2007, the Dutch Nuon Solar team from the Netherlands brought home the top crown with their Nuna 4 car, while Tokai University Solar Car team from Japan brought home the top prize in 2009 with their “Tokai Challenger" car.

In 2009, the Philippine Solar Car Society and the DLSU likewise led the design of Sikat II's predecessor, Sikat I, but it was only used for a road show around the country to promote the country's bid for the this year's solar car race.

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