October 2, 2006 It’s not often we get lead stories on consecutive days from the same company (never before in fact) but French transportation futurists Venturi have done it again – this time with the first solar electric hybrid to be commercialised in the world. Named Astrolab (latin astro = star, labe = to take) because it takes its energy from the sun in order to move, the solar commuter is capable of working with very little energy (16 kW engine) and of recharging even when in motion, and does not need to be permanently exposed to the sun in order to move. The car’s performance is remarkably close to that of a petrol-engined vehicle as it has a top speed of 120 kmh and a minimum range of 110 km. To attain this level of performance while using very little energy, the Astrolab has been designed like a Formula 1 car with an ultra-light carbon monocoque chassis serving as an oversized protection cell in the event of a collision and at the same time offering a large surface for the 3.6 square metres of photovoltaic cells. Its profile recalls the aqua-dynamic design of great racing yachts and Venturi draws the parallel between Astrolab and a sailboat : both advance silently while making best use of the elements and both offer sensations unlike any other. Its designer Sacha Lakic describes Astrolab as “a flying wing set on four wheels.”Astoundingly, it’s not just a show car - EUR92,000 will buy you one and the first vehicles are scheduled for delivery in January, 2008. Do be sure to see yesterday’s equally remarkable story about the world’s first energy-autonomous vehicle. Venturi, we salute you!
One of the many tricks involved in the Astrolab is the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells which offer an exceptional yield of 21%, as they are covered by a film composed of nano-prisms, enabling denser concentration of solar energy. Venturi is hoping for even higher yields in the years to come. The car uses liquid cooled NiMH Venturi NIV-7 batteries and enable it to be plugged into the electricity grid, making it the first electro-solar hybrid vehicle.
This is also the first vehicle that consumes no fossil resources in order to work (depending of course on where you live and how the electricity is made in your neck of the woods): the emissions of CO2 required for its construction will even be compensated for by Venturi’s environmental actions.
Astrolab also opens up a new era as regards automobile architecture : light and high-profiled, it offers the rays of the sun 3.6 m2 of today’s most sophisticated photovoltaic cells (for an overall vehicle length under 4 m).
Optimised to incorporate its solar cells, the Astrolab’s design takes into account the effect of passengers’ weight on the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour. Very light when empty, the tandem architecture makes for perfect balance, whether the vehicle is occupied by one person or two.