Panasonic's tricycling robot to tackle Le Mans 24 hours

A cycling robot will attempt to run for 24 hours on a single set of AA batteries

The 24 hours of Le Mans, the world's oldest endurance race for cars, is enough to push almost any car to its limit but next week a small, battery-powered tricycling robot will face down the historic circuit and attempt to conquer it at just over 1 kilometer per hour.

On Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. a couple of fresh batteries will be popped into Panasonic's Evolta robot and it will set off on a challenge designed to highlight the capacity of the Evolta batteries for which the robot is named.

The batteries have a greater capacity than other alkaline cells, according to Panasonic, thanks partly to a thinner battery wall and smaller internal features so more of the battery's volume can be used for the active ingredients.

The robot will be powered by 2 AA Evolta batteries and needs to complete an entire day on the track for the challenge to succeed.

"It's quite difficult. It's 24 hours and that's hard for the battery and also hard for the robot itself," said Tomotaka Takahashi [cq], who created the robot. "It's almost impossible to expect 24 hours of nice, calm weather. There could be a shower or [strong] wind. We found a lot of insects coming in front of the headlights, so they could be another problem."

To navigate around the track the robot will follow an infrared beam emitted by a buggy that will travel in front of it through the 24 hour period.

The Le Mans circuit is just over 4 kilometers long and the robot's speed should average about 1.3 kilometers per hour. That means it should manage about 6 laps of the circuit in the time allowed.

Should it succeed the Evolta robot will land itself a Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled by a remote-controlled car.

The stunt follows a challenge last year that had a version of the robot climb a rope strung from the bottom to the top of The Grand Canyon. It accomplished the task in just under 7 hours.

"Some points are more difficult and some points are easier," said Takahashi. "It's quite a new challenge. Last time it was a distance, 530 meters, and this time it's time, 24 hours."

Panasonic is one of the world's largest manufacturers of batteries.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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