Home » What is it like to drive the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge?

Data Beast in the desert

What is it like to drive the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge?

Planning a solar car race raises many questions:

  • Does the real world match the computer generated models?
  • What is the actual rolling resistance?
  • Will the solar cells be able to operate efficiently or will the dust and the heat affect them?
  • What are the wind conditions like?

We’re planning to hit the start line as one of the best-prepared teams in the race’s history. And these are all vital questions when designing a solar vehicle to race. As we’re a new team, without direct experience of the race, these answers aren’t obvious to us. So we sent a three-strong reconnaissance team to the outback to get the answers, with them arriving exactly one year ahead of the October start date.

The Data Beast – a Hyundai SUV

The Data Beast in action

Tucked into the mid-sized Tucson SUV from Hyundai, the team set up a series of sensors all over the car that would create millions of data points we could then use inform our Cray supercomputer models (thanks again to sponsor CFMS for providing the computer cluster for the car’s development).

Equipment used measured:

  • the wind speed / direction
  • ambient temperature
  • relative humidity
  • ambient pressure
  • solar panel temperature
  • solar irradiance
  • vibration

Each of these data points were mapped to a GPS coordinate.

For example, our rig’s wind sensors uses four ultrasonic microphones to measure speed and direction, giving an accurate picture of the gusting the drivers can expect on the open plains… and from road trains.

Its solar panel sample was used to collect temperature data, which the team can use, along with solar irradiance, to estimate the performance of different solar panels over the course of the challenge.

And of course, the trip also allowed for some great photos.

The Data Collection Trip: a Gallery

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One comment

  1. Anne Slack ( team Manager Holy Cheat) says:

    I do hope you are successful. On our first attempt we withdrew after 3 days as we were too slow so we finished at Dunmara and continued by support vehicle. Our preparation consisted of recruiting 2 Aussies with CB radio and sending one member early to unpack & reassemble the vehicle and clean the sand off it after our race on Chirihama beach ( Grand Solar Challenge Japan) but the ship was held up by pirates so it was a bit late arriving! 1999 we won our class in the Solar Bicycle race.

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