The Nuon solar team races across Australia

A group of students from TU Delft are blazing a trail across the Australian Outback as part of The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The friendly competition features vehicles that run on solar energy and pits teams from all around the globe against one another in a mad dash across the continent.

On 21 March, TU Delft’s Nuon Solar Team announced that they’ll participate in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge, which will take place in South Africa between 24 September and 1 October. The event will pit solar-powered vehicles from all around the world against one another in a race from Pretoria to Cape Town. The team won the 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia but this competition will present them with a different series of hurdles. They’ll be up against a windier race course, heavier motorway traffic and less predictable weather conditions.

The 3,000 kilometre race kicked off on October 18, 2015 in Darwin, a city located along the Timor Sea in Australia’s Northern Territory. The Nuon Solar Team, which includes fourteen students from TU Delft and their innovative race car Nuna8, ended Day 3 in second place behind a group from the University of Twente. Today, they’re scheduled to depart from Alice Springs and blast their way towards Kulgera, a small locality in the centre of the country.

This isn’t the first time the Nuon Solar Team has participated in a competition like this one. The team won both the World Solar Challenge in 2013 and last year’s South Africa Sasol Solar Challenge. However, Nuna8 wasn’t quite fast enough to beat athlete Dafne Schippers in a 100 metre dash staged in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium last June. The world champion sprinter managed to reach the finish line nine seconds faster than the solar powered vehicle.

So far, this year’s challenge is definitely living up to its name. According to the rules, every car must be off the road by 17:00. Each member of the Nuon Solar Team also serves a vital purpose and must stick to an intense schedule during the race. Everyone must be in their tents early because each leg of the competition begins bright and early at 5 in the morning in order to make the most use of the daylight.

The Outback is also a notoriously dangerous place where temperatures this time of year can reach upwards of 38 ºC. The race is taking place on the Stuart Highway, a small, two-lane road that’s primarily used by large convoys of semi trucks. Racing past these vehicles in a solar car that only weighs roughly 150 kilograms, needless to say, gets a little intense at times. If that wasn’t enough, the temperature inside Nuna8’s cockpit can hit 45 ºC (which is why a hole has been drilled into the bottom to drain the driver’s sweat).

Will the Nuon Solar Team return to Delft with another victory under their belts? Only time will tell. The event will conclude with an awards ceremony on October 25. You can follow the team as they continue their exciting journey on [] or with the daily updates on their website.

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