At Le Mans last weekend, the factory team announced a partnership with the Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group that will see solar panels installed on the roof of the Vantage GTE it fields in the World Endurance Championship. Only the thin panels won't be powering the wheels, boosting the engine somehow or powering the batteries for a hybrid assist. They'll be used to power the air conditioning system. Which may seem inconsequential, but when you consider that the AC typically saps power from the engine – and it can sap quite a lot on a hot race day – that could amount to a serious performance advantage while keeping the drivers comfortable.
While the system wasn't ready to use at Le Mans last weekend, temperatures at the French track don't get too high, so the air-con wouldn't likely be a big factor. The team (operated on Aston's behalf by Prodrive) does expect, however, to have the system up and running in time for next round at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where it can get insufferably hot. Aston and Hanergy also hope to install the system on the V12 Vantage GT3 and V8 Vantage GT4 it supplies to customer teams, and install solar panels on the roof of the new facility Prodrive is building in Banbury, UK.
Le Mans, 13 June 2014 - Banbury, 13 June 2014 - Aston Martin Racing has signed a partnership agreement with solar technologies experts Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group, in a project exploring how the sun's energy can be used to improve race car performance at the pinnacle of sportscar racing, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), starting with the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend (14-15 June).
As part of its ambitious growth plans, Hanergy Solar is exploring wider applications of its technologies, investigating how solar power can be incorporated into many new areas to improve efficiency and enhance performance. In doing so it has turned to Aston Martin Racing for its latest project.
Jason Chow, Executive President of Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group explains, "We are interested in adapting our world leading thin film solar technologies for cars, so that, for example, a thin layer of cells can be applied to the roof or rear windscreen to power the air-conditioning or other ancillary functions without affecting the performance of the car or using the fuel or battery source."
"The engineers at Aston Martin Racing are helping us to apply our technology and eventually to put it to the test in the most extreme of automotive environments."
In line with current FIA WEC regulations, GT cars must be fitted with an air conditioning system that keeps the temperature of the cockpit below 32 degrees centigrade or 12 degrees above ambient temperature.
High temperatures in the race car can have extremely negative affects on drivers and, with the WEC travelling to hot destinations such Austin and Bahrain, it is a concern for all of the teams. However, running air conditioning causes loss of power to the engine and negatively affects the car's fuel efficiency.
"It's a bit of a balancing game at the moment," explained Dan Sayers, Chief Engineer at Aston Martin Racing. "The air conditioning system uses engine power, however, keeping the drivers cool and more comfortable is essential. If we can find a solution that keeps the driver cool without the negative effects on performance then it could have a really positive impact on GT racing."
Aston Martin Racing is continually improving the comfort of its range of Vantage race cars that compete in championships around the world and the technology could be introduced to the V12 Vantage GT3 and V8 Vantage GT4 once developed.
"We aren't looking at solar power technology for our race cars because it is a green option," explains Aston Martin Racing's Team Principal John Gaw. "We are looking at how we can use the power of the sun to improve the comfort of our race cars for our drivers and therefore increase our performance on track. However, we are looking at how we can improve our green credentials as a business now that we are moving to new premises."
Prodrive, which runs Aston Martin Racing on behalf of the famous brand will move to new premises in Banbury next year, so the company is also investigating how Hanergy's solar technologies can be integrated into the new building to improve efficiency.
The project will run throughout 2014 with the engineers developing the technology at Aston Martin Racing's premises ahead the next round of the WEC, the Six Hours of Austin, at the Circuit of the Americas.
About Hanergy Solar Group (parent company of Hanergy Global Solar Power & Applications Group – 566:Hong Kong)
Hanergy Solar Group is the world's leading thin-film photovoltaic technology enterprise with major businesses in R&D, design and assembly of large-scale thin-film solar turnkey production lines, as well as the development and operation of downstream solar power projects and application products. Hanergy Solar Group entered the solar power industry and grew rapidly since 2009, by continuing to fulfill the equipment sales agreements of thin-film solar turnkey production lines, and further extending the business to the downstream area of solar power.