Emilia 4, the solar car of the University of Bologna, wins the American Solar challenge

Emilia 4, the solar car designed and built by the University of Bologna, triumphs at the American Solar Challenge, a competition reserved for solar vehicles developed by universities all over the world.

After 2,700 kilometres through the Rocky Mountains region, from Nebraska to Oregon, the Solar Wave team - the only European team in the race - ended the American Solar Challenge winning first place. And there were also two other special prizes: the prize for the best mechanics and use of composites and the prize for the best battery project. A success that confirms the University of Bologna’s leading role in the global automotive sector, and which paves the way for possible important reverberations in the industry.

The vehicle developed by the Solar Wave team looks like a traditional car but with a big difference in how it is fuelled: to move, Emilia 4 uses an amount of energy similar to what is needed to power a hair dryer. With two electric motors positioned inside the wheels, it is fuelled by five square metres of high-performance solar panels connected to latest-generation lithium batteries.

The Emilia 4 challenge started on July 6th with a number of preliminary circuit tests (almost 500 kilometres travelled), all passed with excellent results. Then on July 14th the actual race took place. The solar car created by Unibo research competed in the Cruiser category for Multi Occupant vehicles.

In this regard, it should be noted that Emilia 4 is a four-seater solar car (the first Italian car of this type), while the other vehicles that crossed the finish line were all two-seaters. Not only that: the Alma Mater car reached the finish using only solar energy without ever connecting to the electrical grid to recharge its batteries, independently travelling the entire route, while all the other vehicles in the race had to be towed on a cart for at least one section of the track.

The route of the American Solar Challenge took the cars in the race to a height of 2,500 metres through the Rocky Mountains. It was a challenge with many miles to cover in ten days, starting from Omaha and continuing on to Grand Island, Gering, Casper, Lander, Farson, Mountain Home, Burns and then the last stop in the city of Bend, Oregon. The members of the Solar Wave team documented the race day after day, noting the batteries to be recharged, pit stops and mechanical problems to be resolved along the route or during long nights at work. But also the downpours and fog that limited the availability of solar energy, creating many problems.

In the end, however, their efforts were rewarded: Emilia 4 successfully completed the journey, day after day reporting excellent scores for efficiency, travel times, number of people on board and battery capacity. Results that put the team in first place in the final standings.

Born from an industrial research project funded by the Emilia-Romagna Region thanks to European financing - Por Fesr 2014-2020, Emilia 4 was developed and built entirely in Emilia-Romagna by the University of Bologna and the Solar Wave team, with the involvement of the Interdepartmental Centre for Industrial Research in Building and Construction, the Interdepartmental Centre for Industrial Aeronautical Research and the support of various companies and research centres, including the Cineca super-calculation Centre and Scm Group.

The design phase involved about 60 people and took two years, while construction was completed in less than a year.

Published on: 24 July 2018