A British racing team is preparing for the World Solar Challenge, a gruelling 3,000 km marathon across the heart of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide, starting this October.
The Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team, led by team manager and second year engineering student Keno Mario-Ghae, is currently test-driving its entry vehicle ‘Resolution’ at a Jaguar Land Rover’s facility, which will allow the team to simulate environmental conditions including the ‘Australian sun’ on a rolling road.
After changes to the competition's rules the students had to redesign their entry, but now complete and ready for testing, 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 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 per cent gain in power.
Emil Hewage drove CUER’s entry in the 2011 competition. He says that the biggest challenge was a sudden bush fire.
“Our scout car saw the fire and importantly, the shadow cast by its huge smoke plume. We were able to adjust our race plan and pass through the smoke as quickly as possible, to get back into the sunlight. In this competition you are always balancing the budget of energy input against speed gain,” he notes.
With a final few months to prepare, the team is now focused on the race’s start date of 6 October.