The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – a 3022km race across central Australia, cruising at highway speeds using less power than a hairdryer; with over 50 teams from 24 countries competing it is easily the largest and most exciting Solar race in the world. We went out as a team of 16 engineers from Durham University to race our solar-powered race car that we’d been building for two years. Needless to say, we were all excited! The race itself began on the 13th of October, with all the solar cars setting off from Darwen Town Hall to begin the 3022km journey.
The rules of the race allow you to drive between 08:00 and 17:00 each day, meaning wherever you are at 17:00 is where you must stop for the night, in the middle of the Australian desert. Spending each night with nothing but flat desert for hundreds of miles, and billions of stars is a highlight of the trip!
We kept a steady 15th place throughout the race, making our way between the 9 control stops spread across the route. However, at the end of the penultimate day we made a pretty drastic discovery – our estimation for state of charge was completely off and had been for the entire race. While initially disheartening, we took it on the chin and geared up to take the final day by storm. With more than enough charge in the pack, we were able to drive at 80kph for pretty much the whole day, overtaking a Swiss team to take 14th place! At 17:00 on Friday the 18th of October, we reached kilometre 2830 where we took this photo – just 180km shy of the finish line.
This photo holds more emotion than I could possibly put into words, it’s the culmination of two years of hard-work and dedication from just a handful of brilliant young engineers. Despite not making the full distance, as the sun set over the horizon illuminating the array one last time, we were all smiling – proud of what we had achieved.