Buckle up…it’s time for Test Drives


60 students, one SolarCar, many test kilometres.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is THE acclaimed goal, which the team has been working towards for two years.  Many test drives are necessary to be prepared for the challenge in Australia and to simulate the conditions during a race. The team is allowed to test the blue.cruiser on an air force base in Nörvenich and at the factory premise of thyssenkrupp in Dortmund.

Early in the morning the team meets to pack the support vehicles and to load the SolarCar on the trailer. After arriving at the premises the technical teams conduct the mandatory mechanical and electrical check-ups.  During these checks defects can be fixed, so that during the actual test drive no delays occur.

Just like in Australia during the challenge every team member has its own special function. Therefor the members are divided into three different teams: the racing team, the support team, and the media team.

Trained to the fingertips

The racing team works directly at the car and repairs and controls the mechanical and electrical components. During the challenge they drive in the support vehicles, which accompany the SolarCar: the lead vehicle drives in front of the SolarCar and looks out for potential hazards and informs the others about road condition by radio, so that the SolarCar driver can avoid potholes early enough. The SolarCar is followed by the ‘Chase’, in which the strategists collect data to determine the further steps: how much energy is left? How fast must the SolarCar drive in order to reach the goal as efficient as possible? What does the weather forecast predict about the conditions, which can have crucial influence on the outcome? These questions need special attention to calculate the optimal strategy. In the case of a breakdown the SolarCar must be secured and cordoned off.  This is a realistic scenario, which needs to be practiced over and over again for a case of emergency.

In the meantime…

The support team cares for the well-being of all team members, who then can fully concentrate on the challenge. In Australia they will set up the tents for a good night sleep before cooking a nutritious meal for over 60 hungry students – a challenge on its own on Stuart Highway where the next supermarket might be many kilometres away.

The documentation and coverage will be assigned to the media team. Via various social media platforms and the project’s website family, friends and supporters are to be informed about the daily events. The media folk are to be right on the spot, not missing out on the exciting moment, but without impeding the work at the car or even the course of the challenge. This could lead to penalty points or disqualification.

It’s all about routine

The communication via radio is a further discipline which needs to be practiced and the generalities of radio transmission must be learned by heart. Think first, press the button, then speak – says the rule.

The best SolarCar is only as good as its team. During the test drives the students gain confidence and routine and make themselves accustomed to the forthcoming tasks in Australia. 

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