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Thursday October 26, 2017 at 7:26 pm
Clenergy TeamArrow succeeded in landing their first podium finish of World Solar Challenge when the team completed the entire 3,000km journey and crossed the finish line in third. This is the best ever result the team has had in this event.
Of the 15 cars in Cruiser Class that took off in Darwin, only three officially finished– First place went to The Netherlands’ Solar Team Eindhoven, and second to Germany’s Team Bochum. Clenergy TeamArrow was the highest-placed Australian team, requiring 91.5 kWh of external energy to cover the course. The team of a motley crew, mostly part-time undergraduate volunteers, was the epitome of the “Aussie battlers” in the race, underdogs competing against teams with 10 times their budget and manpower. But Clenergy TeamArrow has also contended with many difficulties when making it down the Stuart Highway from Darwin to Adelaide.
“Solar car racing is probably closer to sailing than normal motor sport. You’re very dependent on the weather, and it’s not just the rain but also the wind.” chief technical officer Cameron Tuesley said. Teams must be prepared to quickly change their strategy and the designs of their cars when weather is not ideal. The challenge is full of unknowns.
The weather might be out of teams’ control, but their design, construction, and engineering can also throw up unexpected problems, like broken suspension, steering troubles, or communication and technology issues. But problems also act as an opportunity to test how innovative the teams can be in the bid to find a solution.
Cruisers were introduced in 2013 as a way for teams to try their hand at designing cars that could not only go the distance, but would come closer to resembling something people may one day drive.
Proving the car could get from Darwin to Adelaide was the first step in a much larger plan. This year the Clenergy TeamArrow set out to achieve an ambitious goal of developing a highly competitive car that is capable not only of racing but also road going use as part of the event. To that end the new car the Arrow STF is much stronger and heavier than a traditional solar racing car. Equipped with real seats, impact protection, glass windscreens and a Gorilla glass based array, the car forms the basis of a road registered vehicle that is expected to debut on the Australian roads in 2018.
It might be only for an elite few to begin with, Mr. Tuesley says, taking the step shows Australia can contribute and build its own thriving solar industry.