The World’s Fastest Electric Vehicle Prepares for Prestigious Solar Challenge
The Sunswift team from UNSW Sydney is gearing up for the highly anticipated Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, where their solar-powered car, Sunswift 7, will attempt to secure another victory. This student-built vehicle has already claimed the Guinness World Record for covering over 1000km on a single charge in under 12 hours in December 2022. Now, the team is aiming to surpass their own achievements in the challenging race that spans over 3500km from Darwin to Adelaide.
In a groundbreaking move, the Sunswift team plans to livestream continuous footage from inside the car during the race, thanks to Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink system. Equipped with 5G transmission equipment from Optus and Cradlepoint, as well as cloud computing services from AWS, the team will send a live video feed via Starlink satellites to a big screen on the UNSW Sydney campus. Students and staff will be able to cheer on the team in real-time, despite the car racing through the remote Outback.
To ensure smooth communication, telemetry from the car will be transmitted back to a group of student engineers working in special Spacecube modular buildings on the campus. This approach, reminiscent of NASA’s space missions, allows for effective race control and monitoring of the vehicle’s performance.
Richard Hopkins, Sunswift Racing Team Principal and former Head of Operations at the Red Bull F1 team, compares this latest development to NASA’s mission control. The team’s ability to broadcast video from the middle of nowhere and livestream it back to campus highlights the cutting-edge technologies being utilized.
The Sunswift team has a remarkable track record, having participated in the race nine times since 1996. With Sunswift 7 competing in the Cruiser class, the team must complete the three stages totaling 3600km using only solar power. However, plans for Sunswift 8 are already underway, with the team considering incorporating hydrogen fuel cell technology. This innovation could potentially rule them out of future World Solar Challenge races due to current regulations.
Prof. Hopkins hopes to engage in discussions with event organizers and other teams in Darwin to explore the possibility of updating the race regulations. He believes that the rules need to align with current technological advancements to promote further innovation. Currently, the regulations limit the team’s use of advanced technologies, such as gallium arsenide solar cells and alternative battery and motor technologies.
The absence of Eindhoven University of Technology, the dominant four-time winners in the Cruiser class, in this year’s race further emphasizes the need for updated regulations. Prof. Hopkins is determined to ensure that UNSW students remain at the forefront of automotive design and construction, showcasing their expertise on the world stage.
Although the discussions about modifying the regulations will be friendly, the Sunswift team’s focus remains on competing fiercely for victory. Their goal is to engineer the best solar electric car and secure a win in the World Solar Challenge. While they will miss the competition from Eindhoven, the team anticipates fierce competition from other universities that have upped their game.
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge promises an exciting race where innovation, technology, and determination will push the limits of what is possible in solar-powered vehicles. As the Sunswift team prepares to face the challenge, the world eagerly awaits to witness their groundbreaking advancements in the field of sustainable transportation.