With their solar vehicle Resolution, a team of engineering students from Cambridge are set for a sun-tracking adventure which will take them all the way across Australia. Their solar car will travel 3,000 km (1,864 miles) in the attempt to win the World Solar Challenge—a biennial solar-powered car race through the Australian Outback. The lightweight car can achieve a top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph) using as little energy as a hair dryer.
The car features moving solar panels that track the path of the sun across the sky, much like mirrors at concentrated solar power plants. The solar panels are embedded within an aft-facing tracking plant and are predicted to provide the car with 20 percent more power than it would if they were mounted on a conventional way.
In an attempt to find a design solution which will provide the car with optimal solar and aerodynamic performance, solar cars end up looking very much alike, explains Keno Mario-Ghae, team manager for Cambridge University Eco-Racing. Design-wise, a large number of solar-powered vehicles tend to be just a structure for the solar plate. On the other hand, Resolution has a teardrop shape which is both aerodynamic and provides optimal solar performance. The shape houses the tracking plate under a canopy, which doesn’t require any of the two major features to be compromised. Compared to the previous entries for the World Solar Challenge, Resolution looks more like a conventional road car.
Less than 5 meters (16.4 feet) long and 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) wide, and 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) high, the Resolution’s driver has to be shorter than 1.6 meters (5 feet 3 inches). The small size of the cockpit was the team’s deliberate choice in order to boost the vehicles efficiency. Weighing only 120 kg, the car can reach a speed of almost 140 km/h (87 mph).
The team will be given the opportunity to test their vehicle on the road during the 2013 World Solar Challenge scheduled to begin on October 6.