18 Years of Technical Innovation

The Durham University Solar Car project has been pushing technical boundaries since its inception in 2002. Our solar cars are designed and built in partnership with the Department of Engineering, making use of research and practical experience across the range of Engineering Disciplines. Every aspect of the solar car is built upon thousands of hours of in-depth research, followed by rigorous testing, analysis, and experimentation before finally culminating in a cutting-edge design.


A solar car has to be as efficient as possible to run on the power of the sun alone, and so must be as aerodynamic as possible to reduce the drag force. Our aeroshell took countless hours of design, simulation, and testing to finalise – as a result it slips through the air like a knife, generating about as much drag as the wing mirrors on a regular car!

The Motor

At DUEM we take pride in our abilty to design and manufacture almost everything in house – this includes the novel design of our in-wheel motor.

As the motor is built into the wheel, it negates any mechanical drivetrain losses and so hugely improves the efficiency of the car. The axial flux permanent magnet ‘pancake’ design ensures that it packages neatly within the fairing and ensures a high torque density. Finally, our novel sinusoidally sculpted back irons significantly reduce the weight of the rotor yoke, thus keeping our motor lightweight as well as efficient!

Silicon Solar Array

Ortus boasts 4 square meters of Gocherman encapsulated silicon solar cells. This small solar collecter area garners about 800W which is still enough to cruise this hyper-efficient car at highway speeds.

Not only does the Gocherman encapsulation allow for vastly increased flexibility in the panels, it also coats the surface in thousands of micro structured pyramids, each about 5μm in height. These pyramids give the cells a non-reflective coat by bouncing escaping light back into the solar cells, maximising the possible power collected by the array.

Composite Rollhoop

Ensuring the safety of our drivers is our number one priority, but saving weight is very important when designing a competitive solar race car as well. That’s why our latest car sports a composite rollhoop – made up of various plys of carbon fibre and kevlar this rollhoop is as strong as steel but as light as polystyrene.

After an iterative design process incorporating both simulations and experimental load tests, we reached a design that keeps our drivers safe but saves a lot of weight too. This development is one of the reasons why Ortus weighs just 175kg!

Fairing Window Actuation

Another unique design from our team is our specialist pulley release-cleat mechanism for pulling tension onto our window fairings.

When going in a straight line, these windows hold fast to the car helping to reduce our aerodynamic drag. When the driver needs to turn, the tension is automatically released and the wheels can steer out of the fairings.