They raced through Australia with the power of the sun

​With a solar-powered car of their own construction, Chalmers Solar Team have crossed Australia in the world's largest solar car competition, Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. In total, about 50 teams from over 20 countries participated in the competition.​​
The students started their journey in Australia at the Motor Sports Complex Hidden Valley in Darwin to finish building their car and pass the competitions regulations. They also got to meet all of the other student teams.

“It was really great to meet teams from all over the world who had worked hard to achieve the same goal as us. Everyone was very open with how they had built their cars and we exchanged experiences on what different solutions we had chosen to do to solve the same problem,” says Olle Andersson, who studies Production Engineering and is the Project Manager of Chalmers Solar Team.

The solar car competition has been held every two years since 1987. Prior to each new edition of the competition, the organisers develop the regulations to challenge the students and to encourage technical innovation.

“You got to practice on explaining your solutions. It was not enough to have a good solution, you also had to be able to describe it in a technical way and make yourself understood. It was incredibly rewarding, and a great complement to the education,” says Gustaf Blomberg, a Computer Engineering student and responsible for programming in the project.

The weather was a big challenge

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge runs from Darwin to Adelaide, which is a total of 3,000 km. In addition to the solar car, the team drove several escort vehicles, where the project members made sure everything was running smoothly. During the race there was a number of control stops where they checked that the solar car was working properly.

The competition became dramatic for many teams. They had to fight unusually strong winds and there was also a heat record in Australia's northern territory. Several solar cars flipped off the road during the competition and some caught fire.

“When we heard about other teams whose cars had caught fire, we realised just how much energy there is in these solar cars. Since this is a competition and many may have pushed themselves very hard, there are risks. We got a great respect for the regulations being so strict, and we appreciated that they were there,” says Gustaf Blomberg.

A preparation for working as an engineer

Chalmers Solar Team managed to drive to two control stops before the wind and the terrain made it impossible for them to maintain enough speed. In total, they managed to drive 1,000 km purely on solar energy. One of their main takes from the project is that they got to practice working as engineers.

“We really got to learn how to collaborate as engineers. It does not only revolve around the solutions that you are responsible for, but the decisions you make affect others as well. In that way, it felt like the project reflected what awaits us in the working life,” says Olle Andersson.

Read more

“Through Australia entirely on solar power” – the video about Chalmers Solar Team from June 2019.

Text: Sophia Kristensson
Video/Photo: Johan Bodell and Christian Kiprianoff

Published: Fri 22 Nov 2019.