A Taiwanese solar car team yesterday began a 3,000km transcontinental journey across Australia to take part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
The biennial event launched in 1987 is a prominent solar-powered electric car race with participants from universities around the world tackling unpredictable weather across the desert from Darwin to Adelaide.
Taiwan’s team Apollo, which is comprised of 28 students from National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences and St John’s University in New Taipei City, spent the past two years designing, manufacturing and testing its latest solar-powered car, “Apollo VIII,” for the competition.
Photo: Kuo Chia-erh, Taipei Times
The team, established by Ay Herchang (艾和昌) in 1998 to build the nation’s first solar-powered vehicle, is taking part in the World Solar Challenge for the sixth time, the team said.
“We hope to build a solar-powered car that can eventually achieve commercialization,” the team’s student leader Chang Ting-yu (張庭宥) said.
The team has developed a two-seat electric vehicle with a lower drag coefficient for the challenge’s Cruiser class, which aims to encourage competitors to make solar-powered passenger cars that would likely enter mass production.
The team needed to take practicality and energy consumption into account apart from maximum speed, Chang said, citing the event’s regulations.
The solar collector area of Cruiser-class vehicles is limited to 5m2 of silicon photovoltaic cells to make it easier to fit a regular car, according to World Solar Challenge rules.
Asked about the key difference between Apollo VIII and its predecessors, Chang said that the sensors and the monitoring system in the latest model could help the team better cope with uncertainties during the long trip.
The devices allow the team to monitor temperature, battery capacity, tire pressure and energy consumption and deliver the data to computers and mobile apps in real-time, the team said.
With help from the latest information technologies, the team can take measures to lower the temperature of the car’s body if necessary, Chang said.
The improvements made to photovoltaic mounting systems and the cooling system could also help boost the energy efficiency of the vehicle’s solar modules, the team said.
Apollo VIII, made of lightweight carbon fiber, has a maximum speed of 42.8kph, according to the latest dynamic scrutineering results provided by World Solar Challenge.
Thirty-eight teams, including those from the US, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany, yesterday hit the road from the starting line in front of Darwin’s Parliament House.
The teams should complete the journey within 50 hours, with crews driving between 8am and 5pm each day.
The solar cars are allowed to store 5 kilowatt-hours of energy, provided that it is generated through solar power or recovered from the kinetic energy of the cars.
“We are delighted to realize our sustainable mobility concepts on the street,” said Niklas Kaltz, a student representative of team Sonnenwagen Aachen from Germany, which is taking part in the challenge for the first time.
Participants are expected to finish the eight-day trip in Adelaide’s Victoria Square on Sunday.
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