The eleventh running of the World Solar Challenge race was won when the solar car entered by the Japanese Tokai University team crossed the finish line at Victoria Square in Adelaide on October 20th.
[Image, right: The Solarmobil SER 1 solar powered vehicle crosses the start line in Darwin, Australia. Ahead lies 3,000 Kilometers of the harsh Australian Outback. This is the ultimate endurance test for man, machine and the leading edge technologies utilised.]
The solar race entrants have just completed a 3,000km race of extreme endurance for both man and machine, through some of the most ardous conditions known to man.
Commencing in the city of Darwin, at the top of the Australian continent, the participants’ race south along the sealed Stuart Highway through the Australian Outback in temperatures exceeding 50 degrees.
This year the weather was not so kind with cloudy conditions hampering the generation of power and placing high demands on batteries.
The Australian Outback is a lonely place and possibly the harshest of desert terrain known to man, with little or no creature comforts along the way. Competitors must commence racing at 8.00 am each day, averaging between 70 and 90 km/h through the day, and then must stop at 5.00 pm to camp in the desert, regardless of where they are.
The solar vehicles are accompanied by a support car with the additional driver(s), support crew and provisions including all camping equipment, food and drink.
The World Solar Challenge is not just a race, but a technical showcase for international manufacturers and educational organisations to display their expertise. Each vehicle competing must comply with strict regulations and of course must source its motive power from solar energy only.
Conducting the World Solar Challenge race in the normally hot Australian Outback provides the perfect environment for generation of power from solar cell technology.
The solar vehicles’ represent some of the most advanced technology involving light weight materials, aerodynamics, mechanical and electric motor efficiency, and of course, solar cell technology. The focus for the leading vehicles is to enhance the rays of the sun, and turn this energy into the most efficient and fastest vehicle in order to compete and win the race.
The technology on display is fascinating. The solar vehicles mostly resemble a large rectangular horizontal solar panel (maximum six square meters) with lightweight bicycle style wheels, and the most confined cockpit accommodation for the driver. Because of the vehicles’ small size and light weight, they are very vulnerable to varying conditions including wind and speed.
The drivers must also be especially vigilant sharing the road against hazards such as wildlife including Kangaroo and camels’, motor cars, and the frightening Road trains – oversized trucks connected with multiple trailers transporting heavy loads such as iron ore, bauxite, or stock.
This year some of the entrants had to contend with a bush fire near the highway. Operating conditions such as road gradients and desert winds which do not normally effect the modern motor car, have a large influence on the solar vehicles’ speed.
The driver’s concentration must be maintained at all times to ensure that the maximum speed and efficiency is attained in all conditions. There are no open windows or air conditioning in the cockpit. It is this frugal accommodation and the high temperatures endured by the drivers that helps make the World Solar Challenge such an extreme endurance event.
NORD Drivesystems designs and manufactures Helical geared motors, electric motors, and frequency inverters to meet modern requirements of design, efficiency, and performance. It is this shared philosophy that encouraged NORD Drivesystems to co-sponsor the Solarmobil SER 1 entered by the Buhler AG team from Switzerland.
Of the 37 teams competing from 21 countries, the Solarmobil SER 1 finished the race in 9th position, and was placed 3rd overall in the Production Class. The Buhler team were presented with the ‘Best Newcomer Award’ for their performance and effort.
NORD Drivesystems congratulates the Buhler AG team on their outstanding performance and achievement.