TOP cyclists taking part in the 2014 Tour de France, which starts in Yorkshire on Saturday, will relax in a state-of-the-art bus devised by an Oxford company.
Experts at Sharp Laboratories, the global innovation centre for hi-tech giant Sharp, fitted the coach with a range of high-end equipment including cookers, fridges, relaxation areas and an air purification system to give the Garmin-Sharp cycling team the best conditions in which to relax and recuperate between stages.
And the biggest innovation is that – despite the huge energy required to power the bus, which includes a 70in spectators’ TV monitor built into its side – it will all be provided by roof-mounted solar panels.
These are the brainchild of research scientist Josh Robson-Hemmings.
Physics graduate Mr Robson-Hemmings, 24, said: “Normally we would not have been able to run the systems on the bus without generators, but the solar panels will power everything on the bus apart from the water heater.”
That the equipment on the bus is being powered without the use of fossil fuels should also benefit the general outside environment for the riders.
Sharp Laboratories managing director Ian Thompson said: “Cycling seems an environmentally friendly sport, but there are usually enormous numbers of vehicles around, and when the riders are warming up for the race they will be breathing in diesel fumes, which will affect their performance.
“With this project we are ‘off the grid’ and emission-free.”
The solar panels provide a peak power level of 1,700 watts and charge batteries even when the sun is not shining.
The bus will house the team, made up of nine riders and 26 staff and mechanics, and will form a showcase for the Oxford Science Park-based company’s innovation, as well as helping the team achieve optimum results. Bosses declined to give a figure for the overall cost of the bus.
The official opening ceremony for the Tour de France takes place in Leeds today, with the first stage running from Leeds to Harrogate through the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday.
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