UCL solar motorists reach milestone

A team of staff and students from University College London has reached half way in the Panasonic World Solar Challenge, a biennial event to race solar cars across Australia


A team of staff and students from University College London (UCL) has reached half way in the Panasonic World Solar Challenge, a biennial event to race solar cars across Australia.



Competitors have to design and build their own solar-powered cars and then race them over a gruelling 3,000km course from Darwin to Adelaide.



An initial qualifying lap saw UCL’s ‘SolarFox’ placed 17th on a grid of 39 cars. The team maintained its position through the first day’s racing, clocking up 418km, and arrived at the halfway point in Alice Springs in 10th place.



Led by Dr Richard Bucknall and Dr Konrad Ciaramella from UCL’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, the UCL team has been responsible for every aspect of the SolarFox’s design and manufacture. Much of the chassis and suspension components were fabricated and welded in the department’s workshop, with only items such as the wheels, tyres and seat bought off the peg.



The body was designed in-house using the latest computer software and was manufactured using fibreglass by a specialist firm, Fibreglass Applications. The UCL team then attached 402 solar cells to the car. The solar array will produce approximately 1,300W in bright sunlight, which is sufficient power for the vehicle to obtain speeds of up to 120kph.