A little over a month ago, the Cambridge University Eco Racing (CEUR) team travelled to Australia to take part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, an event started in 1987 with the purpose to contribute to the development of solar cars, support young engineers, and contribute to the environment while using a new power source: solar light. Participants are challenged to design, build and develop the world’s most efficient vehicles and this year celebrated its 15th edition.
Courtesy of Cambridge University Eco Racing Team
Teams from all across the globe competed in the 3000km race from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south and this year had to enter their vehicle into one of three classes: the Cruiser Class, the Challenger Class and the Adventure Class. The CUER team entered the Cruiser Class, a class for efficient, practical solar cars with two or more seats and are required to do a minimum average speed of 75kph (around 46mph).
A few days prior to the race, the team worked flat-out on their vehicle Helia to prepare her for static and dynamic scrutineering which, after a few complications, she passed. The next day, they woke early to pack up and make their way with Helia from Hidden Valley to Parliament Square for the starting ceremony. This gave all the participating teams the chance to eye up the competition and check out the other vehicles! Despite some electrical issues which threatened taking part in the race, Helia left the finish line just a little behind schedule.
Day 1 of the race saw Helia reach speeds of up to 100kph (around 62mph) and she looked to be driving well with good stability and energy consumption, despite a few unplanned stops to deal with electrical difficulties. The team travelled from Darwin to Mataranka, a total of 420km, where they then stopped for the night and checked Helia for any further electrical or mechanical issues. Even though Helia’s battery was more depleted than they had hoped for at this stage, the team remained hopeful that day 2 would see them reach the first charging point at Tennant Creek, almost 1000km south of their current location.
Unfortunately, day 2 of the race didn’t quite go as expected. After roadside fix due to a small leak in the rear wheel value, the team were running behind schedule so after a few hours driving at high speed to make up time, they soon came to the realisation that Helia didn't have enough energy to drive at a sufficient speed to reach the first charging point before it closed. There was no choice but to trailer Helia to Tennant Creek in order to give her the charging time she desperately needed.
However, complications with the vehicle overheating to almost 45 degree C whilst being trailered meant that it was not safe enough to charge. So sadly, after completing a total of 540km of the route and being unable to charge the vehicle, the team decided to continue trailering Helia in order to save what energy she had left so she could be driven across the ceremonial finish line in Adelaide – an incredible moment for the team! After the event and a few whirlwind days of competition activities including a parade through Adelaide, the CUER team returned home to the UK for some well-deserved down time. Well done to them for such an incredible achievement!
With technology and innovation being at the heart of Bridgestone’s product development, we are extremely proud to have supported the CEUR team and the event as a whole. We are also pleased to announce that Bridgestone will be the title sponsor for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge until 2030! Masaaki Tsuya, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and Representative Executive Officer at Bridgestone Corporation said: “A partnership like this not only secures the future of the world’s largest, most respected solar challenge, it provides a proving ground for renewable technology and sustainable innovation, here in South Australia and around the world."
Bridgestone looks forward to supporting future events for years to come.