Aston Martin Racing has partnered with Chinese clean energy company Hanergy to install solar panels on the British brand’s track vehicles.
Installed on the roof, the solar panels won’t power the car or recharge a hybrid drivetrain’s battery. Instead, like the solar cells available on the Toyota Prius, they’ll provide power to cool the car’s cabin.
In the Prius the solar panels help to run fans which expel hot air from the car when it’s parked. The solar cells plastered on top of the racing Astons will, instead, drive the air-conditioning system. According to FIA regulations, the cabin of cars entering the World Endurance Challenge must be kept below 32 degrees Celsius.
Normal air-conditioning systems are powered by a car’s internal combustion engine. This not only saps a bit of the available power, but also increases fuel consumption.
Although the partnership was announced at the Le Mans 24 Hour race, which took place over the weekend, the technology was not quite ready for the marquee event. Instead the two companies are hoping to have solar-cooled cars ready for the next event. That race takes place in the middle of September and is a six hour-long affair at the Circuit of the Americas in hot and sunny Austin, Texas.
If trials prove to be successful Aston Martin Racing, a partnership between Aston Martin and Prodrive will see the system installed into the V12 Vantage GT3 and V8 Vantage GT4 race cars.