In an official ceremony on July 5, 2017, the SolarCar Team, made up of students from Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Germany, unveiled the design of their entry for the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser – which takes place in Australia Oct. 8-15, 2017. The solar car was painted by Axalta Coating Systems at its Cromax Training Center in Bonn, Germany.
The thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser is the culmination of a 15-year research and development process. This year, the team comprises 58 students from mechanical and electrical engineering, mechatronics, IT, sustainable development, architecture, economics, humanities, e-mobility and many other fields.
To keep the overall weight of the car down, the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser has a steel frame and a carbon fiber skin. Although the carbon is lightweight, it’s very porous, which makes it a challenge to paint and keep the paint weight to a minimum. The SolarCar Team supplied Axalta technicians with a sample of the car’s carbon fiber a few weeks in advance of the painting, which allowed the Axalta technical team to test different combinations of coating layers to determine what would provide the best coverage and produce the most lightweight finish.
The result was the application of a universal, high-quality, two-component polyester putty to compensate for the slightly uneven substrate and to ensure good adhesion. This was followed by an acrylic-based variable two-component high-solids filler for good isolation before finishing with the waterborne basecoat and fast air-dry two-component high solids clearcoat. For the project, Axalta leveraged its experience coating production cars made of carbon fiber for some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.
“Axalta is passionate about supporting students and community engagement, and this project is the ultimate combination of our product technology, our extensive motorsports experience and our commitment to sustainability, which was of particular importance to the team as they wanted to ensure sustainable materials were used,” says Dirk Sauer, technical service manager for Axalta in Germany, who oversaw the project. “The clearcoat we used, for example, dries extremely quickly at ambient temperatures, yet delivers an ultra-smooth surface, perfect for reducing drag.”
Axalta’s support of the SolarCar Team reflects the convergence of the company’s product technology, commitment to motorsports, university relations program and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Its participation in university racing teams enables Axalta to help students recognize not only the role of coatings in motorsports, but also the applied technology, engineering and innovation that go into the company’s products.
The SolarCar Team hopes to win the prize for best design, an award the university has secured for each of its six previous World Solar Challenge entries.
For more information on Axalta, visit www.axalta.com.