Brunel Solar Team unveils groundbreaking solar car: “Going to the extremes to win back the World Cup”
Despite previous victories, the Solar Team from Delft has faced various challenges in recent years. "During our last race in Australia, which took place in 2019, Nuna X caught fire just before the finish," says Lennart Hessels, team captain of the current Brunel Solar Team. "The team was almost finished when our Belgian competitor took the win. Everything the team had focused on for a whole year literally went up in flames."
Two years later, another blow came. The 2021 World Solar Challenge, and thus the opportunity to win back the cup from the team from Leuven, was canceled due to Covid-19. "The reality that we had no chance of winning again that year has sharpened our focus. We will go to the extreme to bring the cup back to Delft this year."
Raising the bar every year
With the return of the World Solar Challenge comes fierce competition. "We have never raced against so many other teams," adds the team captain. "We are not only competing against the reigning world champions, our neighbors to the south, but also against two other Dutch teams and about 30 other teams from around the world. For example, the team from Michigan in the U.S. consists of 100 team members, compared to 18 team members in our team. The Japanese team also improves every year, and they might start with a brand new concept after four years. So, the bar keeps getting higher every year."
Despite all the competition, the students from the Delft University of Technology focus on their own race. "Our former team coach, Wubbo Ockels, said when he started: 'I will only participate if we are going to win.' That's exactly the motto we still pursue," adds Hessels.
‘Combination of innovations and strategy’
In solar racing, it is crucial for all different disciplines to work together, and technical innovations to align seamlessly. "This can only be achieved by having a collective focus on the interplay of all innovative components and the ultimate strategy during the race," says Lennart Hessels.
"We have access to brand new technologies that are sometimes not even commercially available yet. This naturally brings its challenges, but it can also pay off. For example, our battery is nearly 50% more energy-dense than last year, allowing us to store significantly more energy with the same weight. Our solar panel this year consists of multiple layers of materials that enable sunlight to reflect into the cells, thereby increasing efficiency. By partially overlapping the cells, we can generate even more energy per square meter. If we can gain a slight advantage through all these innovations, we will become world champions."
The team will now conduct extensive testing of Nuna 12 in preparation for the start of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 22 in Australia. More than 30 teams will race their self-built solar cars over 3,000 kilometers through the desert from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south in five days. The goal is to reach the finish line in the shortest possible time.