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!
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