Solar race kicks off

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge kicked off on October 13, for the 15th time travelling down the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Adelaide.

With cars only allowed 5kw of stored energy, all other propulsion must come from either the sun or the kinetic energy of the vehicle. Known for spurring innovation in the field of solar vehicles, teams are largely  drawn from universities and research insitutions from around the globe.

Teams compete in one of three classes: Challenger, for single-seat, speed-based vehicles; Cruiser, for two or more seat vehicles designed to be practical; and Adventure, for cars built for previous events.

This year, almost 100 vehicles are competing from 45 teams.

Already, teams have been scrutinised, with weigh ins finding out who is in the lead, teams are primed for the competition.

One team that is vying for contention is UNSW team Sunswift, whose car, Violet, is competing in the cruiser category. A withdrawal in 2017 forced the team to rethink their approach.

“The team has practically re-built Violet since the 2017 race, and driven her over 4000km from Perth to Sydney to set a new world record in efficiency last year. I think we can be very confident that she’ll make it to the finish line,” said Professor of Practice, Richard Hopkins.

One new introduction that Violet and other vehicles will have to grapple with is the limitation on charging. In previous years, charging could be done anywhere, while now, charging can only be done at Tennant Creek and Coober Pedy, in a realistic simulation of the distance between charging points for electric vehicles. This has introduced new variables for the team, co-led by driver Reuben Hackett.

“We’ll now have to monitor our speed and power consumption more carefully than ever before, to make sure we don’t run out of power short of the designated charging stations,” he said.

At the time of publishing, Solar Team Twente from The Netherlands is in first place.