Visiting the Hidden Valley circuit near Darwin is a pleasure: dozens of teams are preparing there for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. There are a few top teams there (although most work from their own sheds around the city), but there are also many enthusiastic others, such as high school teams. It’s great to see the different solar cars and taste the atmosphere and anticipation before the event. However, in one of the pits today I did not meet a thrill, but a lot of misery instead: Cambridge University Eco Racing had just burned their motor. And they did not have a spare. But luckily, that’s not the end of this story.
Cambridge is a great team, as they are one of the rare teams NOT going for the asymmetric wing-shape and silicon cells, like Nuna7 and 8. Race regulations state that you are allowed to use the much more efficient (and much more expensive) spacegrade gallium-arsinide cells, but not the full 6 m². Of gallium-Arsenide, you can use only 3 m². However, with clever design, that can be a competitive option.
Cambrigde uses these cells, and designed a nice looking aerodynamic cigar, a completely different concept. Last edition in 2013, they had a huge amount of bad luck, as their car toppled twice and in the end was not able to participate at all. I felt really sorry for them. This year, they greatly improved the stability of their design, and everything was looking much more promising. But now disaster struck them again: during testing on the Hidden Valley circuit today, their electric motor jammed, blocking the wheel with it. The driver managed to stop the car without more damage, but their motor was gone. Sadly, the team did not bring a spare motor. There are only two days left until ‘scrutineering’, so the situation looked pretty grim. Not again?
Over dinner at the Nuon Solar Team workplace, the topic came up of course. And THEN somebody realised they might be able to help. Before coming to Australia, there were still two options open for using a motor, and one of them was of the same manufacturer. The one they did not use. ‘We didn’t bring these parts to Australia, did we….?’. There was some silence on the table. ‘…. I actually believe we did….’, someone on the other end said.
That was where the team realised they could actually help Cambrigde out. The discussion ‘should we help?’ was probably the shortest discussion in history. ‘Of course we should!’ And then, team manager Mark made a phone call that made a bunch of people -and especially one electrical engineer- very, VERY, happy….
PS: I am currently with the team in Australia, and I will try to blog the adventure (as I did in 2013)