Next month, a team of cars will travel 3,000 km in searing desert heat from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia, as part of a global road challenge. Though these types of races are common, this contest is a bit different -- instead of using the usual combustible engines, all the cars in the challenge are solar-powered.
A team of engineers from Australia's University of New South Wales (UNSW) is looking to regain a 2011 division crown at the World Solar Challenge with its Sunswift eVe.
The Sunswift eVe, a solar car designed by engineers from the University of New South Wales, will compete in the cruiser class in this year's World Solar Challenge in Australia.
(Source: University of New South Wales)
The challenge, scheduled for Oct. 6-13, has drawn
42 teams from 24 countries. The cars will compete in the challenger, cruiser, or adventure class, depending on the number of seats, wheels, and other features. All the cars are required to use energy from the sun stored in batteries to power an electric motor.
Sam Paterson, project director for the volunteer student-run UNSW team, told us the Sunswift is competing this year in the cruiser class (cars with two seats and four wheels). In previous years, the team competed in the challenger class (cars designed to accommodate only the driver). The Sunswift won the title for its class in 2009. This year, the team's main design focus was weight.
We have to be extremely frugal with the energy we use to make the vehicle move. Everything is optimized to aid this. The shape of the car is designed so as to create the least possible drag. The components inside the car and chassis itself have been designed to be as light as possible to reduce the rolling resistance from the tires on the road.
The solar vehicle features a carbon-fiber shell, silicon solar cells, lithium-ion batteries, and an electric motor with 97 percent efficiency. The tires, from Michelin, were designed with thin walls to reduce both their weight and the energy required when they deform as they roll, Paterson said. The team also tried to design the car to look like a roadworthy commercial vehicle. "We have decided to move far away from the spaceship style of solar car toward something that the public can identify with as a car that they would like to drive."
The UNSW team replaced a Microsoft Excel-based project management process with ComplyPro cloud-based requirements management software from the UK company ComplyServe. The software resembled Excel enough that it was easy to get the team up to speed quickly on it. "It allowed us to evolve our detailed design requirements in a collaborative way and to very easily create the link associations between these requirements across different levels."
The software also stored all the historical information and data about changes made to the project in one place (streamlining the entire design process) and allowed the geographically dispersed team members to log in from wherever they needed to do so, whether that was "home, university, sponsor sites, or New Zealand."
Cars in the challenge are judged on several criteria: elapsed race time, person kilometers (the number of people in the car times the number of kilometers they traveled in it), practicality, and energy used.
The University of Michigan Solar Car Team, using PLM software technology from Siemens, is also competing at the World Solar Challenge. Stay tuned for blogs from the team from the field.