WSU solar car team amongst best in the world

Heavy rain, headwinds of up to 60 kilometres per hour, cattle grids and limited weather tracking equipment didn’t stop the Western Sydney University Solar Team from finishing sixth in the world and the first Australian car in its Challenger Class to cross the line in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

It was the University’s best performance at the prestigious competition, which sees solar car teams from around the world travel 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. Travelling the distance in their car UNLIMITED 2.0, the team’s spirit, strategy, skillful vehicle design and years of preparation proved vital.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover says the team’s results are something that the University and Greater Western Sydney communities should be very proud of.

“In their car UNLIMITED 2.0, our students have rightfully taken their place amongst the very best solar car teams in the world,” says Professor Glover.

“This exceptional result not only highlights the ingenuity, dedication and professionalism of our Solar Car team, but demonstrates the strength of our STEM programs. On behalf of the University community, I congratulate our team on their superb performance, and we look forward to welcoming them back to campus in the days ahead.”

The team got off to a flying start in the race – which in 2017 involved 40 solar car teams from 30 countries – finishing day one as the fastest Australian team and third overall in their Class. This success came on the back of the team being the first Australian Challenger Class team to pass scrutineering, and the fastest Australian team to qualify for this year’s race.

Caption: UNLIMITED 2.0 proved stable over cattle grids.

However, unexpected wet and windy conditions, which forced the Bureau of Metrology to issue a severe thunder storm warning on day three of the race, challenged the team’s weather strategists and forced them to change tactics to conserve energy.

Yet the race is about more than energy conservation according to Western Sydney University’s Dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, Professor Simeon Simoff.

“For us the race is also about preparing our students for the 21st century. Deep systemic and systematic thinking, leadership, business acumen, the ability to work in multi-disciplinary teams, to prioritise, to identify and solve problems, to invent, to analyse and interpret data, and act on the results – all of these are developed and live tested on all stages of the solar car enterprise,” he says.  

“They form the fabric of knowledge and skills that markedly position our students to thrive in the rapid dynamics of the 21st century.”

During the grueling 3000 kilometre trek UNLIMITED 2.0 reached speeds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour. And while optimum speed and efficiency were paramount, it came at a cost: comfort. A cooling system – which would have made each driver’s four-hour stint behind the wheel under the hot desert sun a bit more comfortable – being sacrificed to save energy.

The drivers weren’t doing it alone though, with UNLIMITED 2.0 being accompanied by six support vehicles and a team of 20 managing things such as food and water supplies, energy consumption, car parts, fuel and weather conditions to camping equipment and accommodation.

Caption: Solar Car team set up camp en-route.

The 20 member Solar Car team comprises Western Sydney University students from the fields of Engineering, Industrial Design and Visual Communications. The students manage every aspect of the production and design of the vehicle, as well as sponsorship, marketing and the administrative elements of their involvement in the Challenge.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge has become the world’s foremost innovation challenge with teams from around the world vying to become the first to deliver sustainable solar powered electric vehicles. This year marks the event’s 14th crossing of Australia.

On the completion of the race, the Western Sydney University Solar Car team will drive from Adelaide to Sydney. They are due to make their triumphant return to the Kingswood campus mid next week.


16 October 2017

Emma Sandham, Senior Media Officer