Trim and sporty, the Astrolab's design is very purposeful and practical. How so? Its solar panels cover 11.8 square feet (38.75 square meters) of horizontal surface. Yet, the car's overall length measures just 12.4 feet (3.8 meters) long, while overall width measures 1.84 meters (6 feet) long. The wheelbase is 98 inches (2.5 meters) long.
The passenger-seating tub is contained within a lightweight protective cell. Formula 1 engineers used similar designs to keep their drivers safe in high-speed collisions. The two passenger seats are arranged in tandem and centered within the vehicle. Their placement helps maintain the ultra-light vehicle's dynamic ride, even with two people aboard.
The Astrolab is powered by an air-cooled 16 kilowatt electric motor rated at 3,500 revolutions per minute (rpm). It produces 50 newton-meters (37 pounds/feet) of torque. A liquid-cooled NiMH Venturi NIV-7 battery pack provides energy to operate the motor. Innovative battery charging technology allows the Astrolab to restitute battery energy from either the onboard solar panels or plug-in charger.
The photovoltaic cells in the Astrolab's solar panels are covered with nano-prisms that concentrate solar energy very effectively. The car's four-wheel disc brake system also converts energy generated during braking into stored electric power. It takes five hours to fully recharge the car's battery pack using the onboard plug-in charger.
Since the Astrolab can be operated solely on stored solar energy, it can be driven without using fossil fuels -- even indirectly. When running on solar power, it is a true zero-emissions vehicle. Electricity taken from the power grid through plug-in charging may or may not be produced by fossil fuels. However, Venturi says environmental actions taken while making their vehicles will more than offset any greenhouse gases created during production of the electricity used to power them.
On the next page, we look at the Astrolab's performance and sum up the pioneering concept's accomplishments.