This past weekend, race teams competed in the 82nd running of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, one of the oldest--and toughest--events in motorsports.

For future iterations of Le Mans, and other endurance events, Aston Martin's factory team is investigating a green way to keep its drivers cool under pressure--literally.

Aston Martin Racing is partnering with Chinese solar-panel maker Hanergy to create a solar-powered air-conditioning system for its race cars.

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Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

The carmaker campaigns race-tuned versions of its Vantage sports car in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The rules of that series require all cars to have air conditioning, which can have a significant impact on a car's performance.

While necessary to keep drivers from overheating, air conditioning takes power from the engine--just as it does in a typical, road-going car--meaning the engine must work harder, decreasing fuel efficiency.

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That's where Hanergy's solar panels come in.

The company says it can manufacture solar cells that are thin and flexible enough to be applied to different external surfaces--like the roof or the rear window--and that can provide enough power to run an electric air-conditioning compressor (or other electrical accessories).

Aston Martin sees the project not only as a way to keep drivers cool and comfortable, but also as another step in burnishing a green image the company tries to cultivate, with projects like a hydrogen-powered Rapide S race car.

Aston Martin Racing will continue to develop the solar-powered air-conditioning system throughout the 2014 WEC season.

Meanwhile, Prodrive--which runs the team on behalf of Aston Martin--is also mulling the use of Hanergy solar panels at its new facility in Banbury, in the United Kingdom.


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