Automotive

Immortus solar sports car to offer unlimited range on sunny days

The Immortus is so light and aerodynamic, has such a light footprint on the road and so many built-in solar panels, that it is designed to drive for an unlimited range on a sunny day
The Immortus is so light and aerodynamic, has such a light footprint on the road and so many built-in solar panels, that it is designed to drive for an unlimited range on a sunny day
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The Immortus is so light and aerodynamic, has such a light footprint on the road and so many built-in solar panels, that it is designed to drive for an unlimited range on a sunny day
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The Immortus is so light and aerodynamic, has such a light footprint on the road and so many built-in solar panels, that it is designed to drive for an unlimited range on a sunny day
CAD view of the Immortus, showing the location of the solar panels, the hub motor, the carbon tube/3D-printed titanium node space frame
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CAD view of the Immortus, showing the location of the solar panels, the hub motor, the carbon tube/3D-printed titanium node space frame

If you’ve ever scanned the comments section on an electric car or bike article, you’ll be familiar with this complaint: "that’s not green, it’s just a coal-powered vehicle." Well, not this one. The Immortus is an electric car built to generate its own power through some 7 sq m (75 sq ft) of solar photovoltaic paneling. You can charge its battery off the mains if you have to, but if conditions are sunny, the inbuilt solar panels alone will let you drive at more than 60 km/h (37 mph) for an unlimited distance.

The Immortus is based on solar race car technology with the project originally founded by Australia’s Aurora Solar Car Team, which has competed in a bunch of solar race events across the world. Hence the light weight and the shape of the Immortus, which combines maximal sun exposure with extreme aerodynamics, including covered wheels.

Unlike the solar racers, though, it’s designed to approach practicality on the road, with a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time that will be less than seven seconds and a top speed over 150 km/h (93 mph). It's also a two-seater with a modest luggage capacity for daily driving. Melbourne-based EVX Ventures, creators of the Immortus, even list fun as a priority, saying it should handle like a well-balanced sports car.

CAD view of the Immortus, showing the location of the solar panels, the hub motor, the carbon tube/3D-printed titanium node space frame
CAD view of the Immortus, showing the location of the solar panels, the hub motor, the carbon tube/3D-printed titanium node space frame

Squeezing unlimited range from solar energy

Where the Tesla Model S has a massive 85 kWh battery pack, the self-replenishing system on the Immortus uses only a 10 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery. The car uses twin DC motors mounted on the uprights leading to each rear wheel hub, each with a peak output of 20 kW, for a total peak output of 40 kW (53.6 hp). While 40 kW doesn’t sound like much, the entire car has been designed to make the most of its power. A feather-light weight of around 550 kg (1,212 lb) gives the Immortus a power-to-weight ratio and acceleration time similar to a Mazda MX5 (aka Miata), and the weight distribution is designed to offer similarly sporty handling characteristics.

The Mazda will out-corner it though, because the Immortus won’t use regular road tires. It’ll use tires specifically designed for solar racers, very thin wheels with low-friction tires that prioritize low rolling resistance over grip. These aren’t the most attractive wheels, but then, they’re hidden away behind the aerodynamic wheel arch covers anyway. And thanks to exceptionally low weight, low-drag aerodynamics and low-friction, low-contact tires, EVX expects the car’s small 10 kWh battery pack to be good for just under 400 km (248 mi) worth of range even at night, when there’s no solar assistance topping it up. When the sun’s out and the road’s clear, that range goes up, effectively to infinity if you stay around 60 km/h (37 mph). Upping the pace to 85 km/h (53 mph) the range drops to about 550 km (342 mi).

Distributed manufacturing – every car a custom

Ease of construction is key for the Immortus team, because they don’t plan to mass-produce the car, or even to build it in-house.

"We’re not trying to be a Tesla," says Barry Nguyen, CEO and co-founder of EVX Ventures. "Tesla is a mass manufacturer of cars, we’re designers of boutique custom electric cars and aftermarket products. There’s regulations in the US and Australia that allow for individually constructed vehicles. Essentially what that means is that if you contract a custom car builder with the designs and components, you can build a road legal car without the crash testing and the 5-10 million dollars you’d have to raise to do that. We plan to sell those cars in low volume."

Thus, the Immortus has been designed to be exceptionally simple to assemble. Abandoning early concepts that used a carbon-fibre monocoque frame with two large tubs, the most recent design features an ultra-lightweight space frame using off-the-shelf carbon fiber tubing, with 3D-printed nodes to connect the tubes. The frame of the car is effectively like a big Meccano set.

"This simplifies the manufacturing process, as well as reducing transport costs," says technical lead Clint Steele. "The plan is to have these cars assembled by custom car builders close to wherever the customer is. The custom shops can source their own carbon fiber tubing, and we can either send over the 3D-printed node parts or send over the designs so they can print them locally."

EVX doesn’t expect to sell more than 100 of the Immortus. At an estimated AUD$500,000 (approx. US$370,000) depending on spec, it’s a boutique, high priced technology platform that will only appeal to extremely wealthy early adopters. But the ideas developed through the Immortus project are filtering out into a range of other projects that are much more consumer focused. EVX is looking to raise about US$1.5 million dollars to get the Immortus production ready, and will be taking a scaled-down, remote control version of the Immortus to SEMA in Las Vegas later in the year.

Either way, early as it is, the Immortus, along with the Stella Lux prototype from the Netherlands, paves the way for a new category of vehicle, one that’s all but energy independent. An electric car in which you rarely, if ever, have to think about where the next charge point is. A high-end, high tech sportscar you won’t want to keep in your garage, because it can’t get any sun in there. And as battery technology and photovoltaic efficiency continue to improve, these kinds of cars could become a lot more viable.

Source: EVX Ventures

21 comments
nickyhansard
When they have a motor in each wheel, able to fully charge the battery in ~10mins from dead, can stop/start in the city or cruise at highway speeds without the need for charging when it's sunny and can last 1000km on a full charge at night then I'll be all over it. But even so this is impressive and I imagine it won't be long until we reach that point, then it's just a matter of waiting for those technologies to filter down to the average consumer.
sgdeluxedoc
"Unlimited distance" ? Er... not if you want to get back home . Nice car though...
Ov42
This car would be great as an urban commuter where driving speeds range from 30 - 80 Km/h. You could drive to work, or do your shopping while the car is recharging itself. That being said, a crossover or hatchback design would be more practical. My question is, why are the other electric cars not being covered in solar panels?
the.other.will
Not crash tested means likely to be not crash worthy. I very much doubt it has AC. Unlimited endurance is obviously not true. PV doesn't work at night. But upper surface PV cells will probably become a standard design feature eventually.
Captain Obvious
How long will it take to pay back the $350,000 price tag?
Bob Flint
So the first image looks like it maybe a self driving vehicle, since the panels obscure the forward windshield area, unless it is a strong tint, or translucent panel? Even then the limitless claim is during peak daylight hours, I can't chase the sun in this thing and drive over 1000 mph to keep up with the sun...so say 10 average hours at 60kph= 600 kilometers. ICE engine vehicles can do this distance legally in about 6 hours without stopping. Even at minimum wage it pays for the $40 to fill the tank in the four hours you have saved to do other things. Remember life is short, 4 hours here and there add up.
sk8dad
How often does one need to wash the car to keep the PV cell performance optimal?
Bryan Paschke
AC? Heat? Sound system? Will it talk to (and charge) my smart phone?
Don Duncan
The two platform fundamentals of efficiency are 1. Weight. 2. Drag. They got the weight but what is the drag? Motor-in-wheel and carbon tube frame construction is cutting edge. Well done. $370,000??? And no prototype? No funding? At that price, no wonder!
Stephen N Russell
Lisc & have Tesla build some too, nice. Linked to his underside batteries, Infinite Range & should do well for Night driving given day solar power feed right.