UK solar car enters Australian marathon

A British racing team has designed and built a solar powered vehicle that will be entered into the World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 km marathon across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide, starting in October 2013.

Less than a year after a rule change opened up the field, the Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team have been test-driving solar powered 'Resolution' at Millbrook.

Team Manager, Keno Mario-Ghae, a second year engineering student at Girton College, explains the challenge: to design and build a vehicle that will use the power of the sun to average 80 km/h in one of the world's harshest environments. Every element of the ultra-light vehicle – shaped like a bullet – has been designed with the single objective of improving its race time.

The student team developed a set of modelling tools and tested and rejected many concepts until they finalised the groundbreaking design. Resolution weighs just 120kg and carries the world's most efficient terrestrial solar array embedded within a unique aft-facing sun tracking plate that follows the trajectory of the sun. Use of this plate provides a 20% gain in power.

The cockpit is tiny and the four-person driving team must endure 4-hour stints in 40 degree temperatures. Millbrook Proving Ground will provide invaluable experience for driving across all terrains in preparation of the challenge of keeping Resolution on the road against fierce cross winds and a substantial road camber.

Resolution will have advanced on-board telemetry, which will take into account traffic, weather and driving style, to help advise the team on how to reach their optimum efficiency.

A rule change in June 2012 was designed to stimulate innovation and make the challenge more relevant to the automotive industry. Only four-wheel vehicles are allowed, with each wheel at the corner of a rectangle, this change has meant many teams were sent back to the drawing board and has opened up the competition for those agile enough to respond.

For example, locating the motor in the wheel hub helps Resolution have a 98% efficient drivetrain, allowing her to exceed speeds of 100 km/h on the power equivalent to a hair dryer.

Resolution's innovative design reflects the team's knowledge of automotive engineering and aerodynamics, as well as sophisticated modelling, space-grade composites and optimised solar cells. The result is a vehicle that rewrites the rulebook for solar vehicles but still meets the race parameters and is an exemplar of British ingenuity.

John Ironmonger

Author:John Ironmonger
Date Updated:8th Jul 2013

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