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TU Delft

Climate love

Ready for the Australian sun: Delft racing car with solar panels is better than ever before

By: Sebastian Maks

Yesterday, students from the Brunel Solar Team presented their new solar-powered racing car: the Nuna 12. Thanks to a completely new design and groundbreaking innovations, it is their best model to date. With the Nuna 12, the team hopes to win the World Solar Challenge in October, a multi-day race of 3,000 kilometers across Australia. TU Delft students want to be ambassadors for the transition to clean mobility. “There is simply a lot of potential in sustainable energy”.

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Racing a solar car through the Australian outback is a long-standing tradition. The first World Solar Challenge, in which teams have to travel from Darwin to Adelaide in solar racing cars, took place in 1987. TU Delft first participated in the Nuna 1 in 2001, and immediately won the race. The Delft team also won almost all subsequent editions.

Dream went up in smoke
In 2019 (the last race before corona threw a spanner in the works), the then group of students also seemed to be heading for victory, but things went dramatically wrong just before the finish. The driver of the Nuna heard a smoke smell and was immediately helped out of the car. Within five minutes the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames.

“We don't know exactly what happened,” says team leader Lennart Hessels. “Of course, the data collection also stopped immediately. But it did make us think. This time, for example, we are taking more precautions.”

“The lithium battery in the car gets very hot,” adds technical manager Alinda Dersjant. “And the carbon from which the body of the car is made is easily flammable. That is why we have now installed many more cooling elements and increased the number of temperature sensors.”
Cutting through the wind
But that's not the only thing new about the solar car. In their own words, the Nuna 12 is the most efficient car of the Brunel Solar Team ever. This is due to a broad mind and many technical innovations. “The car has hardly remained the same in one area,” says Hessels. “In the beginning we gave the aerodynamics department free rein. As a result, the car has been given a drastically different shape. Then nothing really fit in the car anymore. We therefore had to redesign everything, such as the suspensions (the connection between the wheels and the car itself, ed.). They are now the smallest and lightest ever.”

New battery technology
The battery has also been significantly overhauled. For the first time since the Nuna 5 (from 2009), a new technology has been used, which means that the battery has 50 percent more energy capacity compared to last year. Finally, the team uses solar panels more efficiently. “We use half solar cells and place them on top of each other,” says Hessels. “That's called shingling, just like roof tiles. This reduces the white space and increases the energy density per square meter.”

The knowledge that the students need to innovate comes from all sides. Within the team, within TU Delft, but also from forces outside the university. “Our electrical engineers have looked for themselves at where we can make the most profit,” says Dersjant. “They dig through scientific literature to see where the latest innovations are. But our alumni, former team members of ours, are also happy to contribute ideas. A project like this is really addictive. They remain motivated to help us.”

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From motivation to inspiration
They like to express the motivation that Dersjant and her team members feel to the outside world. Ultimately, the project is intended to inspire others and show the power of sustainable energy. Dersjant: “For example, we visit schools to talk about our project. Then we also take the old Nuna with us and show children how it all works. They get so excited about that. The questions don't stop. That is just very nice.”

Hessels adds: “Children then say: ‘this is the coolest thing I have ever seen!’ It is nice to leave such an impression. We also tell our story at events and then tell what mission we stand for. There is simply a lot of potential in sustainable energy. But it also raises a lot of resistance. Everyone wants change, but no one wants to be changed.”

And the cup goes to…
Then the key question: will Delft win again this year? In any case, the competition is increasing every year. Not only are more teams participating this year, the level is also higher with each edition. The TU Delft team will compete against two other Dutch teams; of the University of Twente and the University of Groningen. A total of 32 solar cars are participating. "But of course we're going to win again," is said mischievously.

Do you agree?

18 more agrees trigger social media ads

  • walter lungayi

    49 w

    great innovation

    • Joyce Waturu

      49 w

      That's a splendid invention.

      • We Don't Have Time

        49 w

        Dear Wil Sillen Your climate love has received over 50 agrees! We have reached out to TU Delft by email and requested a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! To reach more people and increase the chance of a response, click the Share button above to share the review on your social accounts. For every new member that joins We Don't Have Time from your network, we will plant a tree and attribute it to you! /Adam, We Don't Have Time

        • Munene Mugambi

          50 w

          It would be nice to have a solar powered car competing in F1

          • Harrison wambui

            50 w


            • Priscilla Kabage

              50 w


              • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

                50 w


                • Lucinda Ramsay

                  50 w

                  Interesting..much better than Formula 1!🌏

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