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Industry News The toughest solar car race–3,022 km powered exclusively by the sun

Juliana Pfeiffer

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Traversing 3,000 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia without one single drop of fuel, is that possible? Teams from over 30 countries accepted the challenge during Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Among the participants were a team of students from RWTH and FH Aachen.

There are two categories in the World Solar Challenge: Challenge and Cruise.
There are two categories in the World Solar Challenge: Challenge and Cruise.
(Bild: World Solar Challenge)

The World Solar Challenge in the Australian outback is considered to be the world’s toughest race for solar cars. Over seven days, the vehicles participating in the competition must to drive over 3,000 kilometers across the Australian outback; the vehicles have to be exclusively powered by the sun. Students from the faculties of lightweight construction, photovoltaics, and driving strategy at the RWTH and FH Aachen took part in the Challenger Class with their solar-powered car.

The toughest solar car race:

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Adhesive plays a critical role

The vehicles participating in the World Solar Challenge must withstand extreme conditions such as dryness, heat, direct sunlight, and strong vibrations when driving off-road. To ensure low weight and optimum aerodynamics, the car that the students from RWTH and FH Aachen developed was designed in a catamaran-like shape. The students glued the vehicle's plastic parts to the carbon fiber frame by hand, using a specific two-component polyurethane adhesive.

Some of the main advantages of the adhesive used by the students include:

  • It reduces friction between the glued objects
  • It’s strong and reliable when exposed to both static and dynamic pressure
  • It dries quickly in room temperature

The Aachen team’s construction is not only extremely solid, but it also comes with another competitive advantage, too—it’s lightweight. Weighing less than 200 kilos, the sun-powered vehicle can reach a speed of up to 80 km/h.

In the World Solar Challenge, the students’ car drove at an average speed of 71.8 km/h. This was enough to secure sixth place in the competition. The gold medal went to the Agoria Solar Team from Belgium whose car had an average speed of astonishing 86.6 km/h.

This article was first published in German by Elektronikpraxis.


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