Victory Lap for Solar Cars in Australia

 

We’ve got a knack for looking at amazing ways solar is being used, and now we’ve come across the solar car. You may or may not have heard that the Australian National University, based in Canberra, has its very own solar car team led completely by students! How cool is that? The team’s mission is to use its solar car to win the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (or BWSC) by 2025.

What is the BWSC?

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is the world’s leading solar car race. Engineers travel to Australia from all walks of the Earth with their self-designed solar cars to compete in the challenge. Moreover, the challenge generally attracts around 40 teams in total from 30 different countries! The race involves the cars driving over 3,000 kilometres in about 5 days through the Australian outback; beginning in Darwin and passing through central Australia before finishing in Adelaide. Check out the route below! The first ever race occurred in 1987 and was held every three years until 1999, when it became every two years. However, the 2021 race has been cancelled due to issues associated with the pandemic, which means the next scheduled event will take place in October 2023.

How Does the Challenge Work?

The race is competed in three classes: the challenger class, the cruiser class and the adventure class. So, while there are three, the challenger and cruiser classes are the competitive races, with the adventure class being for cars that don’t meet the requirements of either challenger or cruiser. The adventure race is not competitive and is essentially for fun. Furthermore, the two competitive classes are there to make sure similar solar cars are going up against each other, so there are requirements that need to be met when it comes to things like length, width and amount of solar panels. Let’s go through them!

  • Solar cars in the challenger class must be:
    • A maximum length of 5 metres and a maximum width of 2.2 metres.
    • A maximum of 4 square metres worth of solar panels.
    • A minimum of 3 wheels and 1 driver.
  • Solar cars in the cruiser class must be:
    • A maximum length of 5 metres and a maximum width of 2.2 metres.
    • A maximum of 5 square metres worth of solar panels.
    • A minimum of 4 wheels and 1 driver (although the driver must have at least 1 passenger).

The Australian Solar Challenge

As we’ve mentioned, the 2021 BWSC has been cancelled. Even so, some of its members and teams, including the University of New South Wales’ team, the Australian National University’s team and Brisbane’s own TeamArrow, have joined forces to organise a new event called the Australian Solar Challenge (or AUSC). As of May 2021, the AUSC will include a bunch of different challenges in their event rather than one road-race. However, there are talks happening to get an on-road challenge approved. If that were the case, the race would likely be through areas of New South Wales and finishing in Canberra. Watch this space!

ANU Solar Racing

The Australian National University’s official solar car team is ANU Solar Racing. In 2017, Australia’s only manufacturer of solar panels, Tindo Solar, partnered with students from the Australian National University to help develop the car and get it fit for the challenge. Furthermore, ANU Solar Racing’s mission to win the challenge by 2025 is accompanied by its vision to enrich education, drive innovation in the renewable energy arena and unite students to extend beyond the confines in automotive racing. Check out the photos of the University’s solar car below thanks to Tindo Solar!

Solar Cars
Image Source: Tindo Solar
Solar Cars
Image Source: Tindo Solar

So, while the cancellation of the BWSC is unfortunate, it also couldn’t be helped. With the AUSC going ahead for those in Australia, solar cars will still be racing in 2021, which is great news. We’ve also told you the requirements you’ll need to adhere to in order to compete in the next BWSC; so if it were quick and easy to develop a solar car… you’d be in for a chance!

Make sure you check out the results of the AUSC this year. We’ll keep you updated on our social media, so find and follow us on the platforms you use!

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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