Perhaps it was just a matter of time. They already cover thousands of houses throughout the world and are starting to augment classical power sources with new generators in arid, sun-blaring deserts. Now, solar panels are slated to blow the sunroof off the electric and sports car markets.
EVX Ventures plans to put its first full-scale prototype of its Immortus sports car on the road next year while debuting a quarter-size version at the SEMA Show 2015 in Las Vegas this November. The design will complement its solar panel roof with a standard car battery. During daylight Immortus, named because of its ability to keep going without external fuel resources, should be able to run entirely on the UV-absorbing panels.
From the racetrack to the highway
Sun-powered cars have existed for years but have been used almost exclusively in solar-vehicle-only races. In fact, the company was born from members of the Australian Aurora Solar Car Team and the project was taken over by EVX shortly afterwards.
The plan is to market the first line to an elite group. Considering you would have to pop a tag of $370,000 (AUD$500,000) per unit, it is difficult to push it anywhere else. CEO and Co-founder Barry Nguyen has said he sees 100 cars rolling off the first line, with each model customized according to the customer’s specs. But this could just be the first of several models.
“We are open to the path of developing new models,” Nyugen told Geektime, “But that is not our priority at present as we are currently looking for investors to build our first full-scale prototype.
EVX is planning a $1.5 million seed round to get its prototype to sprout. From there, the hope is to spread their product beyond specially designed makes and models.
“Extending the technology throughout the auto industry is one of the key attractions for investors. This may involve joint venturing, licensing the technology and developing new products based upon market feedback.”
A network of custom car builders, including Python vehicles in Australia, will be contracted to assemble the vehicles, using a number of 3D-printed parts.
“There’s [sic] regulations in the US and Australia that allow for individually constructed vehicles,” Nguyen told Gizmag. “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.”
— Barry Nguyen (@barry_nguyen) August 30, 2015
Why a sports car? Short-circuiting its electric competitors
The company is entering an electric vehicle (EV) industry where Tesla Motors has near exclusive name brand recognition. In fact, Elon Musk is investing heavily in solar power storage to fuel his Tesla-exclusive recharging network, leaking over as CEO of SolarCity and building a huge battery plant in Nevada expected to open next year.
Most people focus on the Tesla Model S as the paradigm for electric cars, though other makes and models have reached the road or are near production. Japanese startup GLM just grabbed $14 million in funding to push its flashy Tommykaira ZZ EV. One sports competitor is the Concept One from Rimac Automobili, priced at $1 million.
But EVX’s plan would beat Tesla to having a literal sunroof integrated into the chassis, especially on something with such a sleek design. And like Tesla, Nguyen says, “We are also confident that our technologies in development are likely not limited to simply the auto industry.”
The company argues a sports car is the best way to get solar vehicles made on an industrial scale as quickly as possible. The concept of a sun-powered car is already proven, so what remains is showing how agile and powerful it can be on the highway.
“With the viability of a solar sports car established through decades of racing – it was now time to develop both a commercialisation and engineering strategy to make it happen,” EVX tells investors.
Sports cars have higher demands on the road, so by the transitive property, they would definitely meet the demands of a family sedan. The challenge for EVX is creating a desirable product.
While the car will have limited speed capabilities, it could theoretically run forever if cruising at 37 mph, far better than what Venturi Automobiles’ Astrolab (18km/hr) and Eclectic (7km/hr) can do when running exclusively on sunrays. Its max speed of 62 mph would also leapfrog the current solar 56.75 mph speed record.
The company will push the Immortus by entering it into as many solar car races as possible as part of a high-profile marketing campaign.
EVX was founded by CEO Barry Nguyen, CTO Dr. Clint Steele, and COO Natasha Zhang, and calls Melbourne, Australia home. The core engineering team includes another 11 staff members. The company also has a partnership with the Swinburne University of Technology Electric Vehicle Research Group.