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20Jun

Brunel Solar team on their odds, technology and sustainability

Brunel Solar team on their odds, technology and sustainability

ALD Automotive is a loyal sponsor of the Solar Team consisting of students from TU Delft. This year the team is competing with their new main sponsor Brunel, as the Brunel Solar Team.

With a new name, a new group of students and a new car - the Nuna 11S - they are once again aiming for first place in South Africa this year. During the eight-day challenge, they will show what they can do and compete against other international student teams. The team that covers the most kilometres during the eight days will be crowned the winner.

The team comprises 11 motivated students with different technical backgrounds, from aerospace engineering to robotics. How do they estimate their chances, what is different about the car this year than in previous years and how important is it that these kinds of races are organised? We spoke with team members Nathan, Remco and Aster about the 2022 edition of the Solar Challenge.

Exploring boundaries within sustainable technology

Nathan van Beugen is an electrical engineer. He estimates their chance of winning is quite high. Logically, he doesn't want to reveal their secret weapon fully, but he can say something about the technology in the car. "The biggest innovation this year is the engine. For the first time, we've designed and built the engine from scratch in-house and even have the facilities for testing it. This contains a very innovative technology in the field of electronics, which unfortunately we cannot reveal yet.”

Nathan travels all over the country to get the right parts and materials for this. “I visited several partners. To Waalwijk, for example, for engine parts and the engine's test setup, and to Leeuwarden and Culemborg for the solar panel. I think it's cool to explore the limits of what is possible within sustainable technology. By sharing this knowledge afterwards, we can contribute to the transition to a sustainable society.”

The blind stage is an extra challenge

Remco Dirks is the strategist within the team. This means that he watches the course during the race and tries to dose the car's energy consumption as well as possible. But this year, there is an extra challenge. "For the first time, a so-called 'Blind Stage' has been included in the race route. This means that on this day of the race, we don't know what the route will be in advance. This is quite a challenge. For example, if the route goes over a mountain that day, you still want to have enough energy.” Normally you can take this into account, but it is more difficult during a 'Blind Stage'. Remco also gives a very strategic answer when asked how likely they are to win. "Fifty-fifty, we win or don't," Remco said.

The importance of these types of races is partly due to their innovative character.  “One way or another, we have to find a solution so we can all use energy more sustainably. Solar energy is one of the techniques that can make a difference. During our test days in which we test the car to the limit, we always use a support car. This support vehicle can view and analyse all the data we collect. This will also help us in the future. Yet more proof why a partnership like the one we have with ALD Automotive helps us enormously, as the spacious bus we've loaned from them fits that need perfectly.”

100% chance of success

Team mechanic Aster Tournoy is full of confidence: “100%, we're absolutely going to win!” Aster is also feeling particularly positive about the electric motor. “In my eyes, it's clearly the biggest change compared to previous solar cars. We've had to develop the mechanical design for the motor ourselves. That first meant coming up with a concept for the motor before designing all the parts and then getting them made.”

“It's great to be able to use our project to inspire people in the field of sustainability. As students, we can already do a great deal and demonstrate so much with a self-built car. And just imagine if the industry really started to run with this kind of technology! The partners who support us in this work are very valuable to us, as we can share knowledge with them and inspire one another. But they also help us with all the practical things we need to get our solar car to the right places without any hiccups.”
Want to know more about the Brunel Solar Team and follow them as they set off right across the South African landscape during their big challenge in September? Then check them out at: https://brunelsolarteam.com