On your marks, get set, go in Darwin
On Sunday, October 8, the long-awaited World Solar Challenge will finally get underway in Darwin, Australia and the team from Bochum University will be on the starting grid with the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser.
Before the 3,000 km journey to Adelaide begins, the solar-powered cars will take to a race track on Saturday to demonstrate that their brakes and chassis work properly. The quickest lap on the track will also define who starts from which position on the Sunday.
“The last few weeks have been very eventful,” says Antonie Bauer (Toni), who is responsible for communications on the team from Bochum University. The thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser and all the other solar-powered cars have only now been tested for Australian roadworthiness by the event organizers. “During the static scrutineering, a kind of roadworthiness test, we had to prove that we have complied with all the rules during construction of the vehicle.” The surface area of the solar cells was also measured, the blue.cruiser weighed and driver visibility checked. “In an emergency, all four passengers need to be able to exit the vehicle via just two doors within 15 seconds,” says Toni, listing another key criterion of the inspection. Together with the majority of the students and the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser, she has already been Down Under since the end of August. “In the last few weeks we have already overcome several hurdles together,” she says. Several hundred kilometers on the rough asphalt of the Stuart Highway uncovered all the weaknesses and faults not discovered during test driving in Germany. “We have finally been able to measure the performance of the solar generator under realistic race conditions.” In addition the energy consumption of the vehicle at different speeds has fed into the final strategy planning. “The mechanics have been working particularly hard on the rear of the chassis. We have added additional stiffening here that we had hoped to manage without for weight reasons.”
The rules for the cruiser class in which the Bochum team is participating have changed radically this year. “It’s not driving speed that decides who wins and loses,” explains Toni. “All that has been specified is a time window for arrival in Adelaide – and that’s next Friday (October 13) between 11.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. local time.” Key aspects for deciding final placings are the number of people transported and the energy consumed. “That will be measured by the number of times the battery capacity is recharged from the mains.” On Saturday, October 14 a practicality review including parking tests and a storage capacity check will also take place and a judging panel comprising car experts will decide which solar-powered car they would buy. The World Solar Challenge will conclude with the official award ceremony on the evening of Sunday, October 15 when all the results will have been decided.
Bochum University has been building solar cars for 15 years
Bochum University has been designing and building solar-powered electric vehicles for 15 years. In 2012 one of its solar cars circumnavigated the globe on solar power alone and holds the Guinness record for the longest journey by a solar electric vehicle (29,753 kilometers).
World Solar Challenge every two years in Australia
The World Solar Challenge takes place in Australia every two years and is run on public roads bisecting the continent from north to south. The thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser will compete in the cruiser class – which is named after one of the Bochum vehicles – where the regulations stipulate practicality, a roadworthiness certificate in the country of origin and at least two seats. In addition to the energy generated during driving from the solar panels mounted on the vehicle, in this class the battery pack – the capacity of which can be freely selected – may be recharged from the mains. The Bochum vehicle is one of just two participants from Germany.