Students from the University of Cambridge are aiming to be the first ever British winners of the World Solar Challenge (WSC). The 3,000 kilometre 'car race' takes place in Australia during October, it is in fact a journey across the outback, from Darwin to Adelaide. The Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team's car is named Resolution and according to the boffins behind the project "rewrites the rulebook" for green vehicles. In related solar powered news, an aeroplane completed the final leg of its sun-powered journey across the USA at the weekend.
CUER demonstrated its solar car prototype on Friday at a racetrack near Bedford. A video showing the journey from concept, through development and the almost finished racing machine is embedded below.
So how does the Resolution "rewrite the rulebook" and why does the team seem so confident about their car's chances? Keno Mario-Ghae, team manager for Cambridge University Eco-Racing, explained that for the last 10 years or so all solar cars have been designed to offer the best trade-off between aerodynamic performance and solar performance. The CUER development team have sought to get the best of both worlds "Our reasoning is that solar performance needs to adapt to the movement of the sun, but the car needs a fixed shape to be at its most aerodynamic. To make the car as fast and powerful as possible, we needed to find a way to separate the two ideas out, rather than find a compromise between them," said Mario-Ghae.
The key new design aspect of the CUER car is using a set of moving solar panels to maximise power input as they move to track the sun's position. This, it is hoped, will give the team a real strength advantage over bigger teams entering the competition. Mario-Ghae said that "The cumulative effect is, we think, a radical, race-winning design that also incorporates elements that could be used more widely in a low-carbon future. No British team has won this race before, but there is no reason why we can’t be the first to do it". Good luck to them! You can read more about the 2013 WSC on the World Solar Challenge home page.
Solar flight across the USA
The first completely solar powered flight across the USA was completed at the weekend. The aeroplane, called the 'Solar Impulse' landed at JFK Airport in New York late on Saturday night to complete the final leg of its journey which had taken two months to complete. The plane set off from San Francisco in May and made stops in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dulles.
The 'Solar Impulse' employed four propeller engines which were powered from the energy collected using 12,000 solar cells on its wings. Battery cells built-into the plane would store the energy from the day and it would take off at sunset, according to The Guardian.
The Swiss based team behind the project were very happy with their success and said "For the first time a plane capable of flying day and night powered exclusively by solar energy has crossed the USA from the West to the East Coasts without using a single drop of fuel." On its journey the Solar Impulse cruised at 30,000 feet, however its top speed was a piffling 45mph. A round world trip is scheduled for 2015.