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TopGear.com.ph Philippine Car News - DLSU unveils its contender for the 2011 World Solar Challenge

De La Salle University (DLSU), together with the Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society, has launched Sikat II, its contender for the 2011 World Solar Challenge in Australia from October 16 to 23.

Sikat II is DLSU's second entry in the World Solar Challenge with a team that is currently composed of 22 of engineering students and guided by three professors from the Mechanical Engineering and Electronics and Communications Engineering departments. The team first competed in the 2007 staging of the race where it finished in 12th place--a remarkable feat for a rookie team. This year, the team is very optimistic as it is targeting a first-place finish.

"Nuon Solar Team, which is one of the top teams, is following our Twitter account because they said they heard that our country is expected to do well this year," shared team leader Jack Catalan, a professor of Electronics and Communications Engineering at DLSU. Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands scored four consecutive victories in the World Solar Challenge from 2001 to 2007. The World Solar Challenge is held biennially.

Sikat II is a huge improvement over Sinag, which competed in the 2007 race, and Sikat, which DLSU unveiled in 2009 and served as a technology test bed for Sikat II as well as a rolling showcase to promote the Philippines' 2011 bid. In March, DLSU unveiled a model of Sikat II, which was then only 25 percent complete, at the university's grounds.

Made entirely of carbon fiber, Sikat II weighs about 180 kilograms, 10 kilograms lighter than Sikat and roughly 110 kilograms lighter than Sinag. This puts less strain on its two-kilowatt electric engine and allows the car to reach its top speed of 110kph much faster. Sikat II also makes use of more efficient solar cells made by Laguna-based SunPower Philippines, allowing the car to run on solar power alone without having to draw electricity from its four kilowatt lithium-ion battery at minimal speeds. When running on its battery and solar array at a constant speed of 85kph, Sikat II has a range of more than 800 kilometers. On battery power alone, Sikat can cover a distance of 255 kilometers also at 85kph.

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Though Catalan estimates that the team has spent approximately P7 million on the development of Sikat II alone, this still pales in comparison to the expenses of other teams that spend an average of $600,000 in developing their cars. Top teams reportedly spend as much as $1 milllion.

"But we're hoping that this won't constrain the team's performance in the race," Catalan added.

As its first road test in real-world conditions, Sikat II ran in the North Luzon Expressway from the Balintawak toll plaza to just after the Bocaue Exit. The road test was supposed to go as far north as the Dau Exit but it had to be stopped as Sikat II is not waterproof and the NLEX's advance patrol radioed that rain was already pouring between Bulacan and Pampanga.

"Like the other teams, waterproofing was not incorporated into Sikat II's design since it hardly rains along the race's route," Catalan said.

The 2011 World Solar Challenge will run from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia for a distance of over 3,000 kilometers.

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Patrick Everett Tadeo
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TopGear.com.ph's resident writer lives and breathes the news. He might have burned a few bridges along the way just to give you the most relevant--and important--ones.
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