The solar car was painted by Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, at its Cromax Training Centre in Bonn, Germany. The thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser is the culmination of a 15-year research and development process. This year, the Team comprises 58 students from mechanical and electrical engineering, mechatronics, IT, sustainable development, architecture, economics, humanities, e-mobility and many other fields.
To keep the overall weight of the car down, the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser has a steel frame and a carbon fiber skin. Although the carbon is very lightweight, it is very porous, which makes it a challenge to paint it and keep the paint weight to a minimum. The SolarCar Team supplied Axalta technicians with a sample of the car’s carbon fiber a few weeks in advance of the painting. This allowed the Axalta technical team to test different combinations of coating layers to determine what would provide the best coverage and produce the most lightweight finish.
The result was the application of a universal, high-quality two component polyester putty to compensate for the slightly uneven substrate and to ensure good adhesion. This was followed by an acrylic-based variable two-component high solids filler for good isolation before finishing with the waterborne basecoat and fast airdry two-component high solids clearcoat. For the project, Axalta leveraged its experience coating production cars made of carbon fiber for some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.
“Axalta is passionate about supporting students and community engagement, and this project is the ultimate combination of our product technology, our extensive motorsports experience and our commitment to sustainability, which was of particular importance to the Team as they wanted to ensure sustainable materials were used. The clearcoat we used, for example, dries extremely quickly at ambient temperatures, yet delivers an ultra-smooth surface, perfect for reducing drag,” says Dirk Sauer, Technical Service Manager for Axalta in Germany, who oversaw the project.
Axalta’s support of the SolarCar Team reflects the convergence of the company’s product technology, commitment to motorsports, university relations program, and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Its participation in university racing teams enables Axalta to help students recognize not only the role of coatings in motorsports, but also the applied technology, engineering, and innovation that go into the company’s products.
The SolarCar Team hopes to win the prize for best design, an award the university has secured for each of its six previous World Solar Challenge entries.