Adelaide University Solar Car team

 

The Team

The solar car project was begun in 2014 with a team of 9 engineering honours students. It has been continued in 2015 with an additional 14 engineering honours students. All team members are either in their penultimate or final year of various courses under the School of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Adelaide.

 

The Project

The purpose of the solar car project is to design and build a car to compete in the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC). Much of the design work was completed in 2014, with the base of the car also manufactured from carbon fibre composite. The 2015 team has continued working on the project by completing the design work and much of the manufacture.

One of the main points that sets our project apart from other entrants into the BWSC is the amount of manufacturing work that has been completed by the team personally. All of the composite work has been done by team members, with the assistance of our major sponsors Etamax Engineering – a local composites workshop. Additionally, the team has successfully built and encapsulated our own solar array. This is a task that most teams outsource due to its complexity and lack of information on methods and materials used. Finally, the team is attempting to manufacture our own carbon composite wheels for the race.

 

The Car

As with most solar cars entered into the Challenger Class of the BWSC, our car features a lightweight carbon composite monocoque chassis that has been designed to be extremely aerodynamic. The four wheels are fully enclosed in fairings, with the left-hand-side fairing doubling as the driver’s cockpit. The car is powered by a single in-hub motor that has been designed by the CSIRO specifically for solar vehicles. The electrical system also comprises a 20kg lithium-polymer battery and 391 highly efficient silicon solar cells.

 

The Race

The BWSC is a 3,000km endurance event running from Darwin to Adelaide along the Stuart Highway. The most competitive teams average over 90kph, and complete the course in 4 days. As the event is so long, and the performance of the car so affected by weather, a robust race strategy is required to ensure that the car has enough power to make it to Adelaide. The AUSRT has implemented an optimisation algorithm to manage the speed of the car along the race route. This should ensure that the car does not run out of power and have to be trailered for any periods of the race.

 

August Update

In the last month several major milestones have been achieved. Firstly, the suspension system was installed in the car, meaning that we finally have a rolling chassis. The suspension is a culmination of work by many people over the course of the project, and you could really see how happy the mechanical team was once it was finally in the car.

Another milestone has been the completion of the solar array. Unlike most teams, we chose to encapsulate our own solar array. This involved producing and testing a method to put the 391 individual solar cells into an array, and many trials with different encapsulant products. Our final method involved soldering each cell to its neighbours to form an array (there are 7 arrays on the car), then wet-laying fibreglass over the backs of the cells. Once this dried we had a light, flexible solar array. Finally, we coated the fronts of the cells in our secret encapsulant to protect them against weather, scratches and fingerprints. We are extremely happy with the final product as the array was flexible, strong, and only 0.7mm thick! Gluing the arrays to the roof provided the flexural strength.

The last major milestone of the last month has been painting the car. As with all other aspects of the project, the team was very hands-on, doing most of the preparatory work ourselves under the guidance of our painter. We are very happy with the final product, and I personally am happy that we went with a red livery (as everyone knows that red is the fastest colour!)

Progress is continuing under-the-hood, with the onboard computer and electrical system being wired up and programmed. We aim to have Lumen rolling under her own power by the 1st of September.

 

World Solar Challenge 2015

The support we received from RS made the development of the electrical system much easier than it otherwise would have been. At least 90% of the components that we required to support and connect the major electrical items were provided by RS. This made it exceptionally convenient to source these components. Additionally, RS substantially reduced the budget requirements of the electrical system by donating these items, allowing that money to be used to support the team during the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

The World Solar Challenge itself was a fantastic experience for everyone. Not only did it give us experience in teamwork, dealing with stressful situations, and logistical planning, it also allowed us to relax on the journey and see some of outback Australia. The Adelaide University Solar Racing Team are extremely happy with the competition results - placing first of the 'trailered' teams in the Challenger Class, having driven our own, hand-built solar car 2,290km of the 3,022km journey. This is an exceptional result from a first car, and would not have been possible without the support of RS and our other sponsors.

More information from Adelaide Solar Racing Team:

http://www.adelaideunisolarcar.com//

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