Adelaide University Solar Racer Taken For A Spin

Today the Solar Racing Team of the University of Adelaide gave Finn and I the opportunity to take Lumen, their solar racer, for a spin. And I was there to take Finn’s picture as he nailed it and completely managed not to hit or destroy anything at all. Well done, Finn!

Finn Peakcock sitting in the cockpit of the Adelaide University's Solar Racing Team's Car, Lumen, about to take it for a drive.

Finn, about to take the University of Adelaide’s Solar Racing Team’s vehicle for a spin.

And Finn was there to take my picture as I drove it off the track. I don’t know what happened there. I think there was something wrong with the road surface which somehow caused it to take control of my primary motor cortex and made me turn the steering wheel left when I should have kept it straight.

Just before I drove off the track.

Just before I drove off the track.

Fortunately the members of the Solar Racing Team assured me I hadn’t actually broken it, and that it had been through much worse on its trip from Darwin to Adelaide last year. However, I think they were a little over optimistic on account of their lack of familiarity with my almost supernatural ability to break things. For example, I am currently typing this on a laptop held together by the application of two wooden rulers and superglue.

The Solar Racing Team

Adelaide University’s Solar Racing Team comprises engineering students who designed and built their solar powered vehicle themselves and successfully raced it from Darwin to Adelaide in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge last year. It is covered in Sunpower solar cells.

They didn’t win, but just crossing the whole of Australia, from north to south, in a self made solar powered vehicle is quite an accomplishment. I don’t think I could do it. Not without cheating, anyway. I’d train my horse to follow me and give me a tow when no one was looking.

Of course the real value of the Solar Challenge race is helping teams of students learn valuable skills to aid them in becoming successful engineers. And the team had plenty of ideas on how to improve their racer’s performance in preparation for next year’s World Solar Challenge.

They will rebuild it. They have the technology. They will make it better than it was before. Better…stronger…faster… Except for the stronger part. It’s strong enough already. They had no doubt it could handle my weight and I’m as heavy as two average engineering students glued together.

Are Solar Powered Cars Like This The Way Of The Future?

No.

Okay, Smartypants – Will Some Cars Use Solar Power In The Future?

Electric cars in the future certainly could make use of solar panels to provide a portion of the energy they use. However, they don’t appear to be on any production cars yet.

The Prius had an optional solar roof, but it was pretty disappointing, as it didn’t power the electric motor or charge the batteries or apparently do anything at all apart from operate some fans.

And then there’s the problem that car manufacturers may not want people parking their cars in the sun, as it can fade the paint and the interior and they’d rather people keep them looking snazzy like in a car commercial in the hope of impressing people and making more sales. So there could be some resistance to the idea.

But maybe one of these young engineers I met today will do something about getting solar panels on cars that you and I could buy. I hope so, because I like the idea of a car that is never completely out of power, in the day at least, even if I might have to wait a while for it to charge up enough to drive it somewhere I can plug it in. That way, I won’t have to get my horse to give it a tow.

About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Peter Thornton says

    Way to go guys! That would have been a real treat for sure.

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