The World Solar Challenge is a solar car race that takes place every other year in Australia. Launched in 1987, this year’s race, which starts on 6 October, is the twelfth World Solar Challenge. The race attracts teams from all over the world to compete on a 3012km (1877 mile) course that winds through the Outback from Darwin to Adelaide.
This year there will be a record 47 teams from 26 countries. For the first time there will be three classes of vehicles competing: Challenger, Cruiser and Adventure. An Evolution Class has also been added, which will allow electric vehicles to join the race, but they will not be competing in the Challenge.
The Challenger Class has twenty-eight teams entered. Requirements include that they need to only carry the driver but this year they must have four wheels. The University of Michigan (US) solar car team has come in first place seven times in the American Solar Challenge, but has yet to eclipse third place in the World Solar Challenge, a ranking it’s achieved five times.
University of Michigan Generation Solar Car
The requirement that the car must have four wheels sent teams like Michigan back to the drawing board to come up with a completely new design. The car that the Michigan team designed for the 2013 race, called the Generation, looks a little lopsided but it was planned that way, with most of the heavy equipment on what would be the passenger side.
Aaron Frantz is the team’s Operations Director. He’s been on the solar car team for four years and recently graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. Of this World Solar Challenge he said, “We’ve built a car by the rules, we’ve tested the car, we know the procedure, now it’s just the race. We just have to keep an eye and follow everything through and that’s the difference between splashing triumphantly in the fountain in Victoria Square or spending hours on the side of the road.”
Eight teams are entered in the Cruiser Class, in which they design a vehicle that is more like the family car. They’re designed for practicality and must be able to carry a driver and a passenger. They’re judged on external energy use, the payload carried and the time it takes to complete the course. The Sunswift Team from the University of New South Wales (Australia) is racing its car, called Eve.
University of New South Wales Sunswift Solar Car
After setting two solar car world records with previous designs, the Sunswift team decided to join the Cruiser class. “We want to go beyond the spaceship type cars we’ve built in the past and create the sort of car you could drive anywhere, all while keeping the design cool and producing zero emissions,” says UNSW engineering student Sam Paterson.
The Adventure Class is for entry-level teams who have cars that don’t meet the regulations of the Challenger Class. Among the requirements are that the car must have just three wheels and carry one driver. There are seven teams entered in the Adventure Class, and one of them is a high school team from Mississippi Choctaw High School. They are the first Native American team to enter the race, and they hope to be the first high school team to finish the race. Their car is named the Tushka Hashi, which means “Sun Warrior” in Choctaw language.
Mississippi Choctaw High School Solar Car
The Aurora Vehicle Association, a non-profit group based in Melbourne (Australia), has a team that is also entering in the Adventure Class with its lightweight vehicle, 87 Aurora—named for the fact that this team has not missed a competition since it began in 1987. The Aurora team won in in 1999 and achieved class wins in 1990 and 2007.
Ready, set, go
This year’s World Solar Challenge, sponsored by Bridgestone, promises to be the most competitive yet with new, innovative designs and new classes of cars. All of the top contenders will be back, according to Mark Warren, Chief Executive Officer of the South Australian Motor Sports Board. He said, “Last year’s winners from Tokai University in Japan are looking for their third straight victory and former champions, Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands, who had to be satisfied with second in 2011, are working furiously on Nuna 7, vowing to fight until the finish to get the gold back to Delft University. Of course, there is also the US Solar Champion Michigan team still trying to best their third place result.” Solar Novus Today will be reporting on the World Solar Challenge 2013 with more details on vehicles, sponsors and race results.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today