They constructed the first in Poland and Central-Eastern Europe electric car powered by solar energy. A year later another, more practical and more modern vehicle was built. Both cars (Eagle One and Eagle Two) were awarded many times, and even appreciated by representatives of TESLA. The students of Lodz University of Technology, who form the Lodz Solar Team, are not sitting idle. Mateusz Grzesiak from the Lodz Solar Team talks about the cars of the future and the team’s plans.   

It started with a student exchange in the Netherlands 7 years ago. Later on, the Eagle One was developed in a fairly short time. Was it difficult to pave the way?

It definitely wasn’t easy – but we managed. I can say without hesitation that at the beginning we had absolutely nothing except for the idea, vision and enthusiasm. After our student exchange in the Netherlands, we started talking to the authorities of Lodz University of Technology. We asked for a possibility to run such a project and for some garage space where we could work. I have to admit that at the beginning not many people believed in the success of this project, but in spite of this we finally got the place and the permission to work. It was definitely a big milestone for us, but as it turned out later, it was only the first of many that we had to make. The next step was parallel development of Eagle One project, doing aerodynamic testing and searching for solutions, but also searching for funds to carry out the project of building the first solar electric car in Poland and Central-Eastern Europe. Lodz University of Technology and individual faculties were, of course, the first sponsors. Subsequently, we established further cooperation and the group of sponsors was gradually growing. This way we managed to raise funds for the construction of Eagle One.

The conceptual and design phase turned into implementation phase and Eagle One itself started to take shape. As you mentioned, our first car was built very quickly, as it took just over a year from the idea to completing the car and preparing for the first competition (Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Championship).

In automotive terms, it has been an extremely twisty and bumpy road, but it is because of this that when our first goal became a reality – participation in the World Championship in Australia, the satisfaction of achieving it was even greater.

Two years later, Eagle Two was developed. How does it differ from Eagle One?

Precisely. It is also worth mentioning that for the first year we continued to develop Eagle One and participated in competitions in South Africa. Whereas it was only in 2016 that work on Eagle Two began. The construction of the second car – like the first – took just over a year.

Eagle Two definitely has a more modern and refined design. When I say differences, I mean a change in approach and an increase in the number of passengers that can travel in the car.  It has been increased from two (Eagle One) to five (Eagle Two). It is worth mentioning that our Eagle Two at BWSC 2017 was the first student car with five passenger seats. Another difference is the body type. Eagle One has a safety cage and this is the supporting structure of the car. The body, on the other hand, is fibreglass designed in the shape of a falling water droplet – which reduces aerodynamic drag. On the Eagle Two we have used far more modern and lighter technology.  We dropped the aluminium cage in favour of a self-supporting monocoque body.  This time we used carbon fibre instead of glass fibre, and these changes contributed to the reduction of the car’s weight. Another important difference is that Eagle One without battery weighs 370kg while Eagle Two weighs 320kg. Some might say that 50kg is not much. But in a solar electric car competition, every kilogram counts, and it is worth noting that the weight reduction has been done with a simultaneous increase in size and capacity of the car. The maximum speed that Eagle Two can reach has also been increased – 140 km/h which is 20 km/h better than Eagle One. There are many more technical elements that could be mentioned, such as new panels, new engines, implementation of Mennekes Type 2 charging standard (European charging standard), battery size, implementation of on-board computer with multimedia system and also design of the interior resembling the cars we use every day.

All these changes make the Eagle Two more practical, comfortable and a further step towards building the city car of the future.

Your work has won numerous awards. You were awarded, among others, for the most practical solar car. The construction was appreciated by representatives of TESLA. Will you create a car that will be used in the future, e.g., in a typically practical way, in city traffic?

To put it simply, this is exactly our goal. As we all know, the more you have the more you want. It is no different in our case. Having already built two cars, we want to move forward. We are working hard to develop solar electric car technology and we want to move in the direction of the city car. I think it would be a dream for every member of our team, current and former, to see our car in daily traffic in the future. This would definitely be the culmination of many years of work by several dozen or even several hundred students from Lodz universities.

Will we manage to do it? Time will tell, but every person working on our projects knows exactly what the goal is and is focused on it. Seven years ago, what we managed to do was also in the realm of dreams, and yet two cars came into being, and the whole team continues to grow. This is definitely a good sign for the future.

So far, have any companies been interested in the Lodz Solar Team’s constructions and would they like to start production?

I cannot deny this when answering this question. But at the same time, I cannot reveal much about it at the moment. The information I can give is that some talks have already taken place. We are in contact with several companies that have asked about such a possibility. However, the stages of the talks we are at do not allow us to disclose more precise information at the moment.

Certainly, as soon as we are able to say something more on this subject, we will announce it first on our social media, also I encourage everyone interested in this topic to follow us and our further developments.

On social media you can read that you are looking for software developers, mechanics, electronics engineers. Is this a sign of a new major project?

Yes, we are currently in the process of recruiting new members for our team. We are looking for people with passion and willingness to change the world around us for the better.

Does this mean a major project? In fact, the functioning of our team is a continuous major project, which currently employs over 50 people. Nevertheless, there are never enough people to work with and we want to involve more people from different fields of study in our activities.

In our team we have people from almost every faculty of Lodz University of Technology and a few people from other universities in Lodz – this shows how diversified skills are needed to create a working car.

The current recruitment is a routine one, conducted every six months, but you are right, in the near future we are preparing a really loud project, which you will be able to see probably already this autumn.

Today the Lodz Solar Team is already experienced and has a lot of knowledge. What are your plans for the future? Will Eagle One and Two be improved? Maybe there will be new versions of Eagle?

Thank you, it is very nice to hear such feedback about our team. But you can never have too much knowledge. Of course, we have already gathered experience during five races on three continents. Still, we prefer to look at what we can improve rather than what we have already learned. To put it simply, we want to keep growing, keep gaining experience and, above all, not sit idle.  There is a phrase that I like very much: “He who does not move forward is moving backwards”. – This is a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I think it perfectly sums up the attitude of the whole Lodz Solar Team.

Moving on to the questions about our current cars. Eagle One, at the moment, is a show car – we plan to keep it in the best possible condition, and we take it to all kinds of fairs, exhibitions and events in which we participate actively. Eagle Two, on the other hand, is under constant development and it will probably remain so at least in the near future. Currently we are in the phase of implementation of new engines – much more efficient, quieter and better fitted to the characteristics of our car, and we are also conducting projects of several other improvements making our car more “intelligent”.

Current plans? This year we want to take part once again in the iLumen European Solar Challenge in Belgium. It was there 3 years ago where we won the title of European Champions. It would be nice to repeat this success this year as well. There are several other race opportunities this year that we could participate in besides the one in Belgium. However, at the moment the main goal is the Circuit Zolder race mentioned earlier.  We hope that the pandemic situation will allow us to take part in this competition, while any additional possible race in which we could participate will be considered as something beyond our plans.

You also asked about the next versions of our Eagles. We are very often asked about the future. As a matter of fact, we are working on it and there are talks going on in this respect. However, as with the question about companies, we prefer this topic to remain more in the realm of speculation. We want this information to surprise our recipients in the moment, when we actually create the next version of the “Eagle” car.  So, let’s leave it as an understatement. Everyone who is interested will find out everything in due time.

One of the values guiding the EUG 2022 is ecology and creating eco-minded attitudes. That is why the solar-powered cars of the future built by Lodz Solar Team will be on display during the European Universities Games 2022 in a specially prepared eco-zone.