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Cambridge University students have collaborated with F1 and supercar experts to create one of the world’s most energy-efficient cars. Yes, you did read the title correctly. 

The team of undergraduates enlisted the support of F1 engineers and Bridgestone to design and build a four-seat solar-powered electric car which can travel from London to the Scottish Highlands at a speed of 50mph on the same power it takes to boil a kettle.

Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) have just returned from their first international race with Helia – an epic 1,864-mile drive from Darwin to Adelaide as part of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

The cutting edge vehicle pushes the boundaries of automotive battery technology, efficient tyres and aerodynamics, weighing only 550kg (1200lb) due to a specialist ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre chassis and body panels tooled by Portsmouth based Formaplex, a leading lightweight manufacturer for some of the world’s biggest F1 teams and automotive companies producing multi-million pound high-powered supercars.

Use of composites allowed the team to drastically reduce weight while maintaining structural integrity, allowing Helia to travel further and faster than would be possible with other materials.

Helia’s aerodynamic lightweight design significantly enhances the overall energy efficiency, using power from high-performance lithium-ion battery packs produced in collaboration with Silverstone-based Danecca. The battery pack has much higher energy density than most production vehicles, which gives Helia more than double – yes, double – the range of a Tesla Model 3, while being a quarter of the size.

Bridgestone, the world’s largest tyre and rubber company, also worked with the team to develop low rolling-resistance tyres.

Xiaofan Zhang, CUER’s Programme Director, said: “Many of our partners are world leaders in automotive engineering, R&D and high-value manufacturing but are not necessarily household names. The UK has an abundance of this expertise and we have been very fortunate to leverage their capabilities in Helia.”

“Helia was designed to demonstrate the technology behind electric vehicles and renewable energy and will visit schools next summer with the aim of inspiring the next generation of engineers. We have plenty of positives to take forward and are already in search of our next challenge.”

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