The Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team has suffered a major incident while road testing its solar-powered car just days before it was to take part in a 3000km race across Australia.
The team was in Alice Springs for the final stages of testing for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2017 (BWSC)
when its car, Mirage, crashed and sustained major damage. The vehicle had undergone more than 1500km of testing at the time of the incident, to simulate conditions of passing road-trains, extreme drive input and cross winds.
One of the key aims was to understand the vehicle’s behaviour at high speed, up to 80kph, but despite carrying out the same test several times during the day, in the afternoon test there was a sudden loss of dynamic stability and the car subsequently rolled and impacted a permanent barrier causing irreparable damage. The driver safety compartment and roll-structure protected the driver, who was taken to hospital and treated for minor abrasions and fractures. She has since been discharged and has now rejoined the team.
Sadly, the incident leaves the team unable to compete in the Challenger Class. Mirage was to be CUER’s fifth vehicle to enter the challenge where students from more than 30 countries compete to drive a solar-powered car 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide. The team will now stay out in Australia for the duration of the BWSC, which starts on the 8th of October, and will work closely with officials to share valuable insights for the duration of the challenge.
CUER team manager Frank Bloomfield says: “CUER is known for its innovation and pursuing unorthodox design features, such as the teardrop shape of Mirage, which places the driver towards the front of the vehicle. As such, we believe it is imperative to develop internal specifications that exceed the requirements set out by the BWSC and consequently designed a safety cell for this car up to an impact strength of 20 g.”
Harry O’Neill, from CUER’s sponsor SOLIDWORKS reseller NT CADCAM, says the incident is a devastating blow for the team which had spent two years designing and building a car that was seen as its best achievement yet.
“There are so many elements in building an electric car today and this incident highlights the kind of challenges these students are facing to design, engineer and drive a car in some of the toughest conditions this planet has to offer.
“A challenge like this involves advancements in photovoltaics, energy management, advanced materials and electrical engineering. It is an incredible design challenge that rewards innovation, team work and human endeavour.
“Having worked with CUER for the 2013 and 2015 challenge, we know what a resilient bunch they are and that this experience will only make them stronger for the 2019 Challenge.”
Going forward, incoming programme director Xiaofan Zhang, has returned to the UK to drive the learning process and recruitment for the next cycle of the BWSC in 2019.
To follow CUER’s story read their blog pages
or on Twitter @cuerSolarTeam