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News > Science, Technology & Medicine > The Future is Solar

The Future is Solar

Toby McBride (SH 08-13) updates us on the latest news from Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM)

We are about to experience the single biggest paradigm shift in the history of motoring. Gone are the days of internal combustion. We are on the cusp of an electric revolution. Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM) is playing a vital role in this critical area. We are the UK’s most established solar car team. Founded in 2002, we’ve been pushing the boundaries of innovation in sustainable motoring for over 16 years.

What is a solar car you may ask? Essentially, it is an electric vehicle with the primary charging source being our sun. And yes, although Durham may seem ironic for a location to develop such a car (given our lack of sun), we are one of the best in the world.

Over four generations, we’ve continued our relentless push, designing and building lighter, faster and more efficient vehicles. Our latest car is the culmination of this: it has a top speed of 100km/h, weighs just 250kg and when cruising uses 5 times less power than a Toyota Prius. This is thanks to a variety of innovations, from an advanced aerodynamic design, to our in-house developed in-wheel motor: 99% efficient and able to power us on just 1kW; that’s less than a domestic microwave!

We don’t just build these cars as a technical exercise. We raced this car on public roads in the World Solar Challenge last October, representing the UK on the world stage. This is the third time we’ve entered this prestigious race, competing against 45 teams as we drive from Darwin to Adelaide entirely on solar power; a distance of over 3000km!

Our success and innovation makes us Britain’s most established and leading solar car team. But our future ambitions don’t stop there - we aim to take part in this year’s European Solar Challenge (in the sunshine capital of Europe that is, of course, Belgium!) and return to Australia in 2019 with a brand-new car; something we are already working on as we speak.

We also love to showcase our technology at world-renowned events. Whether it’s half a million people at Canary Wharf’s Motorexpo, showcasing to motorsport and real-life royalty at the London Motor Show, inspiring the next generation of students at the Science Museum, or whether it’s exhibiting at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed (twice!), the Marrakesh Formula ePrix or being the first ever solar in history to exhibit in front of world leaders and CEOs at 2 UN Climate Summits - in Marrakesh (COP22) and Bonn (COP23) - our marketing reach is substantial (over 100 million) particularly with such a unique product.

Just a few months ago, we became a founding member of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions. Signed at COP23, this landmark agreement puts DUEM on the world stage, connecting us with companies and governments around the world in promoting sustainable solutions.

We are entirely funded by donors and partners from around the world, from Lord Sugar’s digital marketing agency, to the University and our technical sponsors and partners. We couldn’t do what we do without them. As we look ahead to major races, marketing events and expanding our STEM programme, there are a number of opportunities available should you be interested.

Whether it’s utilising our extensive marketing reach, connecting with students for graduate recruitment, using your technology in our car, or enhancing your CSR image through avenues like our outreach programme, we are very flexible and would be delighted to speak to you about this, on an individual or business basis.
Longer term, our solar car and its technology will continue to play a pivotal part in working against climate change. It provides the complete end-to-end solution - you never plug in your car to the mains to charge up. There’s no debate about the source of the electricity used to power the car, nor issues with range; theoretically ours is infinite.

We want to take this to the next level, developing the technology in the car to greater heights, patenting our innovative in-wheel motor design and one day entering commercial production; whether this is through licensing to major manufacturers or working on a solar car for the masses ourselves.

That is DUEM. We are very excited for the future. If the past 16 years have been anything to go by, our future is decidedly solar. I guess you can say our other car really is a solar car!

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