Stronger for its battle-scars, the Cambridge University Eco-Racing Team (CUER) is determined to show that innovation, backed by solid engineering, will give their new vehicle Evolution the edge at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2015 from 18-25 October – a biennial endurance event across the harsh Australian outback.
CUER is a 60 strong student organisation that designs, builds and races vehicles that are powered by the sun, aiming to demonstrate the incredible potential of electric vehicles. In 2013 the team’s hopes were dashed dramatically after a crash during road testing in Australia raised concerns over the car's stability.
[Image shows, from left: Adam Gristock, Deputy Director and Project Manager; Jack Fielder, Testing Manager; Alexander Wright, Electrical Team; Simon Schofield, Tech Manager; Michael Wheeldon, Mechanical Manager; Giovanni Bergamo Andreis, Mechanical Team; Aurelia Hibbert, Programme Director]
Driver Alan Jamieson says that rigorous testing has identified the cause of the problem and this has been addressed through a refinement of the design and stringent quality control. New enhancements will ensure that Evolution, the new vehicle, will hold the road and its own against stiff competition.
Amy Livingstone, Head of the Electrical Team, explains: “Our main focus this time has been on improving the reliability of the electronics and there has been a 15% improvement in base power consumption.
“Our space grade solar array is cutting edge and has been rotated by 90 degrees to reduce shading due to the Fresnel losses in the canopy. The battery is of the best energy density available so that has been retained.
“We've worked on revamping the driver controls to make it more intuitive to use and a higher resolution screen has allowed us to integrate a rear view camera into the dashboard to improve visibility, which is much needed on the roads in the dusty Australian outback.”
[Above video shows launch of Evolution at Cambridge University Athletics Track]
Alan continues: “The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is one of the toughest in the world. It is 3,000km with dust, fierce cross winds, bush fires and these long road trains of carriages which, as they pass, you can feel the buffeting effect of even in a Land Rover.
“We had beaten all expectations to get our vehicle Resolution to Australia in 2013 – we had designed the car from scratch and built it in a year. It was completely different to anything that had gone before; it was smaller, lighter, with an efficient array of solar cells that could position themselves towards the sun. It attracted a lot of attention.
“But a big issue was, unlike the big teams participating, we were trying to study, fundraise and build the car in our spare time. Parts were delayed and the car wasn’t completely made when we began test-driving. Also our driving team was relatively ‘young’ in terms of experience; for example one of our drivers signed up before she even had her driving licence!”
Alan (pictured right) arrived in Darwin just after an accident during testing of Resolution and the team were told if they could fix it in a week they could still enter. “It was an intensive week and we impressed the officials who said ‘you’ve pulled it out of the bag and got the car together again’.”
After repairs it was ready for the go/no go decision. “I put it through some exacting testing for the Chief Safety Officer. Although drivable it was deemed for technical reasons unable to compete in the main event; our chance to demonstrate the results of over two years’ work was gone.
“It was easily one of the biggest disappointments of my life. Back in the UK the team was very, very down and many moved on.”
CUER has since rebuilt the team and thoroughly tested the 2013 car. It was found that a high centre of mass, combined with multiple issues of dynamics, lead to the instability when cornering; Resolution’s go-kart-like handling was inappropriate for the long, narrow car. The re-designed vehicle Evolution has been built to exacting standards, which take into account the lessons learnt from testing and getting to experience conditions in Australia.
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Event Director, Chris Selwood, congratulated the Cambridge University team on the unveiling of their new car: “We are very proud of the Cambridge team who have been bold enough to go their own way, push the boundaries of accepted wisdom and seek innovative and creative solutions to the design conundrums we set.
“Of course that approach has its risks, and success is not always assured, but the experience, opportunity and the potential for reward it delivers can never be underestimated. The design is unique and the advances and quality of this iteration are significant. Their arrival in Australia is eagerly anticipated and I very much look forward to the successful endeavours of this exceptional Cambridge University team.”
CUER Programme Director Aurelia Hibbert (pictured left) said that the team is grateful for the continuing support of Jaguar Land Rover, Marshall Group, Penso, Timeless Green, TTP and Viridian Solar and says their involvement is crucial: “Working on a practical engineering project is an invaluable experience to students, many of whom, like Alan and Amy, are on theoretical courses.
“The challenge for CUER has always been maintaining momentum when each year many of our core team graduate and leave the university. We are now looking to address this and with the new role of full-time Programme Director sustain progress and maintain relationships with funders for 2017 and beyond.
“We have a strong engineering team, experienced drivers and an exciting and innovative entry for the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – the next few months of testing at the Jaguar Land Rover wind tunnel facilities and on the track at the Millbrook Proving Ground will be crucial in ensuring that we deliver our most competitive, efficient and reliable vehicle yet.”