Solar Team Twente – Design three-wheeled solar car

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Introduction to Solar Team Twente and their Solar-powered trike

Solar Team Twente is a Dutch student team from the University of Twente that designs, builds, and races solar-powered vehicles. The team consists of ambitious and talented students from various disciplines who share a passion for sustainable mobility and pushing the boundaries of solar technology. Their latest project is the development of a unique three-wheeled solar car, also known as a solar-powered trike.

What is a solar-powered trike?

A solar-powered trike is a three-wheeled vehicle that relies on solar energy for propulsion. It typically features a lightweight, aerodynamic design with an array of solar panels mounted on the top surface to harness the sun’s energy. The solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which is then stored in batteries and used to power an electric motor that drives the wheels.

Advantages of a three-wheeled design

The decision to opt for a three-wheeled design offers several advantages compared to traditional four-wheeled solar cars:

  1. Enhanced stability: The triangular layout of the three wheels provides improved stability, especially during cornering and in crosswinds.
  2. Reduced weight: With one less wheel, suspension, and associated components, a three-wheeled design helps reduce the overall weight of the vehicle.
  3. Improved aerodynamics: The narrower front profile of a trike allows for better aerodynamic efficiency, reducing drag and increasing the vehicle’s range.

Design process and challenges

Conceptual design phase

The design process for Solar Team Twente’s solar-powered trike began with the conceptual design phase. The team conducted extensive research on existing solar car designs, analyzed the competition rules, and brainstormed innovative ideas to create a unique and efficient vehicle.

Some of the key considerations during this phase included:

  • Optimizing the solar panel layout for maximum energy capture
  • Designing a lightweight, yet sturdy chassis
  • Selecting the most efficient electric motor and battery system
  • Ensuring driver comfort and safety

CAD modeling and simulations

Once the conceptual design was finalized, the team moved on to creating detailed CAD (Computer-Aided Design) models of the trike. These digital models allowed the team to refine the design, test various components, and optimize the overall performance through simulations.

The team utilized advanced software tools to conduct simulations in areas such as:

  • Aerodynamics: Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations helped analyze the airflow around the vehicle and minimize drag.
  • Structural integrity: Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulations ensured that the chassis and other components could withstand the stresses encountered during racing.
  • Energy management: Simulations of the solar panel output, battery capacity, and motor efficiency helped optimize the vehicle’s energy usage.

Prototyping and testing

With the CAD models finalized, Solar Team Twente proceeded to build physical prototypes of the solar-powered trike. This stage involved sourcing materials, fabricating components, and assembling the vehicle.

The team conducted rigorous testing to validate the design and identify areas for improvement. Some of the key tests included:

  • Solar panel performance: Measuring the output of the solar panels under various lighting conditions.
  • Battery endurance: Testing the battery’s capacity and discharge rates to ensure sufficient range.
  • Motor efficiency: Evaluating the motor’s performance and efficiency under different load conditions.
  • Handling and stability: Conducting track tests to assess the trike’s handling, stability, and overall performance.

Technical specifications

Component Specification
Solar panels High-efficiency monocrystalline cells
Total area: 6 m²
Battery Lithium-ion battery pack
Capacity: 5 kWh
Electric motor Brushless DC motor
Peak power: 2 kW
Chassis Carbon fiber monocoque
Weight: 120 kg
Wheels Front: 2 x 20-inch wheels
Rear: 1 x 24-inch wheel
Dimensions Length: 4.5 m
Width: 1.2 m
Height: 1.1 m

Racing performance and achievements

Solar Team Twente has participated in several international solar car races, showcasing their innovative designs and engineering prowess. Some of their notable achievements include:

  • Winning the Challenger Class in the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 km race across Australia.
  • Finishing second in the 2018 American Solar Challenge, a 2,800 km race across the United States.
  • Setting a new world record for the fastest lap at the Circuit Zolder in Belgium with their solar-powered trike.

Future developments and goals

Building upon the success of their solar-powered trike, Solar Team Twente continues to push the boundaries of solar technology and sustainable mobility. Their future goals include:

  • Further optimizing the trike’s design for improved efficiency and performance.
  • Developing new solar cell technologies to increase energy capture and reduce weight.
  • Exploring the potential of solar-powered vehicles for everyday transportation.
  • Inspiring and educating the public about the benefits of sustainable mobility.


1. How long does it take to charge the solar-powered trike’s battery?

The charging time depends on various factors, such as the intensity of sunlight and the battery’s state of charge. On a sunny day, the trike’s solar panels can fully charge the battery in approximately 8 hours.

2. What is the maximum speed of the solar-powered trike?

The maximum speed of Solar Team Twente’s solar-powered trike is around 120 km/h (75 mph). However, the actual speed during races is often lower due to regulations and strategic energy management.

3. How does the trike perform in cloudy or rainy conditions?

While the solar panels operate most effectively in direct sunlight, they can still generate some electricity in cloudy conditions. In case of prolonged cloudy or rainy weather, the trike relies on its battery to maintain propulsion.

4. Can the solar-powered trike be used for daily commuting?

Currently, Solar Team Twente’s solar-powered trike is designed primarily for racing purposes. However, the technologies and design principles developed through this project can be adapted for daily commuting vehicles in the future.

5. How does the team ensure the driver’s safety in the trike?

Driver safety is a top priority for Solar Team Twente. The trike features a sturdy carbon fiber monocoque chassis, a roll cage, and a multi-point harness to protect the driver in case of accidents. Additionally, the team conducts extensive safety tests and follows strict racing regulations to ensure the driver’s well-being.


Solar Team Twente’s solar-powered trike represents a significant step forward in the development of sustainable mobility solutions. By combining cutting-edge solar technology, innovative design, and skilled engineering, the team has created a vehicle that pushes the limits of what is possible with solar energy.

Through their participation in international solar car races and their dedication to research and development, Solar Team Twente continues to inspire and educate people about the potential of solar-powered transportation. As the world moves towards a more sustainable future, projects like the solar-powered trike serve as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of young minds in tackling global challenges.