For solar vehicles, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is considered the most challenging solar race in the world. It leads from Darwin (northern part of Australia) about 3000km to the southern coast of Australia in Adelaide. The race takes place from 8th – 15th October 2017. This year it celebrates it’s 30th anniversary.
Teams from all over the world come especially from academies, universities, schools and from the car industry. Main objective of this contest is the support and presentation of research & development in the solar car section. To take part in the two racing classes, the car has to comply a couple of requirements. These include the solar panel size, the battery capacity and the road capacity. The weather plays an important role as well. Therefore, we supported the Belgian Punch Powertrain Solar Team with one WS504 compact weather sensor.
We talked to Ruben Dekeyser, a member of the Belgian Punch Powertrain Solar Team, to get some additional information about how they use our weather sensor this competition.
Hey Ruben, how are you doing? Nice that we had the possibility to meet up with you right before the Solar World Challenge. First question: What are the main tasks of the Lufft sensors?
Ruben: Fine, thanks. We use the sensors to measure the irradiance and the wind. In solar racing these two aspects are very important to determine the strategy. Obviously the irradiance is important because it determines the incoming power of the car.
Why is it also important to measure wind speed and wind direction while racing?
Ruben: The wind is very important as well. This is due to the fact, that aerodynamic drag causes the biggest loss (70% of the losses) when driving a solar car. So it is very important to determine the headwind influencing the car.
What about side winds? Do they influence the car as well?
Ruben: Yes! in contrast to a normal car, also the side winds have a big influence on solar cars. In some circumstances the sides of the car function like a sail. So we need less energy when there is side wind.
Sounds interesting. Are there any problems which come up while using side winds?
The problem is that it is very difficult to study this phenomenon. Therefore, a correct measurement of the wind is very important. So we can study the consequences of the wind forces on the car.
Earlier you’ve talked about a race strategy. How do you determine which strategy you could choose for the race?
Ruben: To determine the strategy during the race, we use predictions from the European weather model provided by the Belgian Royal Institute of Meteorology. The problem with predictions is, that they are not very accurate. During the race it is important that we can react fast on varying situations.
How are you able to react quickly on different wind and weather conditions?
Ruben: Therefore three convoy cars are equipped with the stations. Two of them drive ahead of the solar car so that we can monitor the future conditions. E.g. we have one car 200km ahead we call the Eagle. These car check for clouds and divergent weather conditions mostly focusing on the sun. The other car is 10 minutes ahead of the solar car and checks the wind.
Now a question we’re pretty interested in: Why did your team choose our sensors for the World Solar Challenge?
Ruben: We decided to go for Lufft because the previous teams used it and the stations showed to be very reliable. Also they are very compact. That makes it easy to take them everywhere with a car, but also to transport them to Australia.
Pleased to hear that the sensors meet your demands. Which places got the teams in the last races?
Ruben: The two previous races our team became 6th and 5th. So we showed that we can compete with the top teams. This year we want to take the cup back to Belgium.
Sounds confident & we wish you good luck for that. In conclusion, could you give us some more general information about your team and the race?
Ruben: We are a team of 21 engineering students of the University of Leuven in Belgium. We are the 7th Belgium Solar team. On July 4, 2016 we started to build a solar car to compete in the Bridgestone World Solar challenge. The race is 3020km long and goes right through the Australian outback. It starts in Darwin and ends in Adelaide.
Thank you very much Ruben, for taking time. The entire Lufft team wishes you all the best and good luck for this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge!
Interviewer: Tobias Weil. The interview took place before the competition from October 8 to 16. The “Punch Powertrain Solar Team” started from the pole position and reached the third place.
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