Test Crash Dashes Hopes For UK Solar Race Team
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
After suffering a debilitating setback in the form of a crash, a team of engineers from Cambridge University in the UK has announced they are withdrawing from this year’s World Solar Challenge (WSC), a solar-powered car race across the Australian Outback that takes place every two years.
Last Tuesday, the team began the day by performing tests on their car, Resolution.
“Unfortunately, we also did one unplanned test – of the structural integrity of the chassis,” the team wrote on their official blog. “We had an accident, and Resolution turned onto her side at (53 mph), sliding (164 feet) along the rough road of Cox Penninsula and down the embankment, away from traffic.”
While the driver emerged unscathed, the crash severely damaged a solar panel on the side of the vehicle and significantly impaired the integrity of the vehicle.
“We have solar cells on the side of the door of our car – cells which do not take kindly to being sanded by 50m of rough tarmac,” the engineers wrote. “Large portions of the side panel cells are now scattered in a thin, very expensive layer over the surface of Cox Penninsula.”
The team initially decided to push forward – “challenge accepted,” they wrote. However, they ultimately decided that the vehicle would not be repairable in time for this year’s competition and announced their official withdrawal on Saturday.
“Further tests were then carried out under controlled conditions on track,” they wrote. “This revealed new dynamic instabilities, which we have not been able to fix in the time we have left before the race.”
“Due to the limited amount of time we have left to remedy our situation, we have not been able reassure ourselves of the safety of our solar drivers,” the engineers added. “Therefore, with great regret, we have decided to withdraw. The team is very disappointed but we are confident that we have made the right decision.”
Despite the crash and subsequent withdrawal, the team cited many positive outcomes from their participation in the event. Most notably, the team said Resolution’s preliminary tests in Australia produced the car’s best ever results, which they took as a validation of their design and hard work. The team also said they were able to develop some new and innovative technologies during this year’s design cycle.
Most importantly, they said, Resolution has served as an inspiration to the public and the next generation of engineers.
“As a team, we could not have reached this stage without the support of everyone who has helped us this year,” the British engineers wrote. “We would like to thank our sponsors and the individuals who have given us technical and financial assistance; the WSC organisers, for their efforts in getting us to the start line; the other solar car teams here in Australia, for so generously stepping in to support us where they can.”
“Over the next week, we hope to prove our innovative technology in the environment for which it was designed,” they added. “Looking forward, the team will continue investigating the performance of Resolution in the UK, and use what we’ve learnt to build a race-winning vehicle in 2 years’ time.”