Bridgestone world solar challenge
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) is the largest solar race in the world. Every other year, over 50 teams race 3,000km across the Australian Outback from Darwin in North to Adelaide in South with their unique solar powered racing cars boasting some of the latest solar car technology.
The teams are predominantly comprised of university students from 24 countries who design, build and race the cars.
The challenge aims to push the limits of solar powered transport and innovation.
The World Solar Challenge was inspired by Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins when, in 1983, they conducted their own cross-country journey in a solar powered vehicle they had designed and built themselves.
In 1987 the World Solar Challenge was born, sponsored by South Australia Tourism Commission. Since its creation the event has continued to grow, the title sponsor since 2013, Bridgestone, aims to “support young engineers who are challenging innovation.” 2013 also saw the introduction of the Cruiser class, a more practical car with passenger seats that has a separate scoring system to Challenger class.
• Challenger Class
A traditional single seat race car where winning takes speed
• Cruiser Class
A practical car with 2-4 seats, judged on efficiency and practicality
• Adventure Class
A non-competitive class for cars that no longer fit the regulations of out of the box ideas
The journey to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is a long one for all the participating teams. Initially designing a car for a specific class and to that’s class stringent regulations. The regulations change for every race in order to drive forward innovation.
There are large changes and small ones, in recent years large changes have included array sizes decreasing from 6m2 to 4m2 requiring all cars to become more efficient. Once the car has been designed, it needs to be built and tested ahead of shipping to Australia.
Static scrutineering takes place about 2 weeks after arrival in Darwin and is essential to ensure all of the cars are safe and legal to drive on the road. Various tests are carried out on the cars from weighing them to checking the rear number plate is visible and the handbrake works correctly. Technical inspections of the battery box and mechanical inspections of the whole car are also carried out here.
Once the cars have passed static scrutineering, they are ready for dynamic scrutineering. This take places over the course of a day; the car’s turning circle is tested by driving in a figure of 8, then there is a braking distance test before the hot lap. The hot lap determines the starting order for the actual race. Once dynamic scrutineering has been successfully completed its time for the race.
The race starts in the centre of Darwin and has a large turnout of spectators to see all the cars start their long journey. The race starts on a Sunday morning and ends at 5pm on the following Friday. In this time the cars must cover over 3,000km and reach all 9 control stops before their individual windows close.
At each checkpoint the driver must be guided into a parking spot, tilt the array for maximum charging and exit the car and hit a buzzer which starts a 30-minute timer. During this half hour, the team can refuel their cars and regroup while the solar panels charge. At the end of the time limit the incoming driver has to get into the car, close the array back down and begin their drive.
Additional driver changes may occur to limit fatigue but are not essential.
At the end of each day the team must find somewhere to camp between 5:00pm and 5:10pm, more often than not this is just the outback, so all food and water supplies are carried in the support cars.
After parking up, the solar car is allowed to continue charging until sunset when the battery box must be removed from the car and locked away with the key entrusted to the observer who is staying with the team that night. Tents are put up and any repairs or modifications to the car can be made. The next morning, the team arise before sun rise to make sure the car is ready to begin charging as soon as the sun is up.
The car is allowed to drive off between 8:00am and 8:10am depending on when it arrived the night before.
The race continues in this fashion until the team reaches Adelaide, where they have to drive into the city centre and to the presentation area. The cars are then parked up and are part of a showcase event for the following days with the focus on innovative technology and inspiring the next generation.
The last BWSC was in 2019 and DUEM had its most successful race to date. Ortus competed in the challenger class and completed all 9 control stops, just falling short of the total distance in the end.
The competition in challenger class is impressive, 2019’s winner Agoria Solar Team from Belgium won their first race beating 7 times winner Nuna from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and 2 times winner Tokai from Tokai University in Japan.