Solar Vehicle Seat Design

This project was done in partnership with Team Arrow Racing Association. The seat design is tailored to the needs of drivers within Team Arrow and not to solar racing in general. The final seat design adheres to regulations mandated by Bridgestone, the organisers of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge a race that inspires innovation in the fields of solar technology, electric vehicles, and vehicle design.

Design Criteria

The research conducted revealed the following areas as important factors to consider, these areas also form the criteria that the seat design must address;
• Vertical Height
• Arm Movement
• Vibration & Stability
• Adaptability & Customisation
• Egression & Ingression
• Dashboard Reach
• Viability & Field of View
• Material Minimisation
• Mass Minimisation
• Fatigue & Comfort

final design

Seat Base with Fabric Cross-section

Vertical Height

The use of fabric allows the overall vertical height to be reduced, while still maintaining a comfortable design. The fabric chosen for this application is Oxford Cloth, this material is used in camping chairs and is; strong, durable, and breathable. Oxford Cloth has some stretch making it a comfortable material as well. The design allows airflow under the driver. This is important as in the context of solar racing vehicles, airflow and heat inside the occupant cell is a major issue. This design diverges from traditional Carbon Fibre bucket seats that due to their rigid nature put too much pressure on certain parts of the driver’s body and restrict airflow to the driver.

Seat Back Rib Inspired Design

Arm Movement

To allow arm movement the design deviates from the traditional bucket seat, reducing the amount of material to the side of the driver and in the backrest. The ‘Rib’ inspired backrest is constructed from Carbon Fibre, foam, and fabric covering the foam. The gaps between the ribs will allow additional airflow to the driver. The ribs are positioned to support the driver in key areas along the spine and eliminating unnecessary material. The ribs design also allows for an adjustable element of the seat that is facilitated by the spine. The shape of the ribs was chosen to secure the driver in the seat without inhibiting arm movement.
Cropped Seat Side View

Vibration & Stability

Due to the uneven roads and lightweight nature of the vehicle the drivers experience a lot of vibration and movement around in the occupant cell. The leg divider is designed to secure the driver back into the seat. Drivers that were interviewed, often slid forward in the occupant cell during the race. This not also inhibited their driving ability but also caused additional fatigue. The leg divider also houses the seat belt, this will allow for better adjustment of the seat belt and in turn securing the driver. For added stability, the rib backrest is designed to conform to the driver more than a traditional bucket seat would.
Seat in Solar Vehicle

Visibility & Field of View

To address the visibility for the driver the design will need to consider elements of the vehicle that have not yet been designed. Therefore, this visibility and field of view elements can not yet been fully reslvoled. However, considering the current vehicle design the seat addressed the all of the requirements for visibility and field of view. In terms of other elements that rely of integration with the vehicle the helmet rest integrates with the roll hoop and back of the occupant cell and the overall dimensions of the seat fit comfortably into the occupant cell. Additionally, the seat design includes a considered mounting system including of the shelf racing seat brackets.
Spine Section Seven

Adaptability & Customisation

The spine element telescopes into itself to adjust to different drivers heights, the system uses pins to adjust the height manually, much like the system used for crutches. The seven sections of the spine individually adjust. Adjustability in the height of the seat is particularly important because the seat must fit a mannequin driver that is 990 mm in height including a helmet. Many drivers selected to race are not as tall as this and would require adjustment. Additionally, the attributes of the fabric used for the seat base allows for adaptability and movement of the driver throughout the race to increase comfort.
Leg divider close up

Egression & Ingression

The leg divider houses the seatbelt. In the previous Team Arrow seat design, there was no seatbelt housing. Having this feature will make putting on and taking off the seatbelt faster and easy. Drivers are required to egression the vehicle in under fifteen seconds. The leg divider can also act as a step up for the driver to climb out of the vehicle. The driver is contained in the occupant cell with a translucent dome. This is also the entry and exit of the vehicle.
Fabric Base

Fatigue & Comfort

The fabric base uses oxford cloth fabric which addresses the issue of fatigue. This flexible fabric choice allows the driver to move and adjust throughout the race reducing physical fatigue. As previously mentioned this design diverges from traditional Carbon Fibre bucket seats that due to their rigid nature put too much pressure on certain parts of the driver’s body and restrict airflow to the driver.

Design Details

Product Model


Solar Racing Vehicle Driver Ergonomics & Seat Design Thesis

View Thesis Paper

Zara Venturato

Zara is passionate about systems design and providing a full solution including everything from UX to manufacture. Zara has tailored her studies to understand the micro and macro elements of product design, choosing Interior design and Interaction design as her minors.