New car lighter, faster, better

Mirage, the solar car team's 8th vehicle, is the most technologically-advanced model. It replaces Radiance, a car that year set the Guinness record for the longest distance travelled by a solar car in a single journey when it trekked 7044 from Halifax to Vancouver.

The new car is a considerable improvement on Radiance. Mirage is lighter, faster, and more aerodynamic. It is partly because of this new design that the solar car team was the top-seeded team in Canada heading into the American Solar Challenge earlier this month.

The major factor in Mirage's design, from the chassis to the solar panel array, was aerodynamics. Much of the inspiration came from the aerospace industry. The frontal and surface areas have been minimized while keeping the internal space free for the driver, as well as any mechanical requirements.

Computers were used to create the blueprint and to analyse the shape's performance, thus fine-tuning the model before it was built.

The new three-wheel design is also important in increasing the car's efficiency. It improves aerodynamics, decreases friction, and makes Mirage an overall lighter vehicle.

Other new features include: aluminum-titanium suspension with shock technology similar to the systems in top-of-the-line mountain-bikes; a lithium battery pack which replaces the nickel metal hydride batteries used in the past and a carbon fibre monocoque chassis similar to the materials used in Formula 1 race cars.

The braking system also uses mountain bike technology, hydraulic disc brakes that have been custom designed. The wheels are built to fit Michelin solar car tires, and are designed to reduce the rotational mass on the vehicle.

Mirage weighs 420 pounds, has a top speed of 125 km/h and is able to run on the same amount of power as a hair dryer.

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