When the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) kicks off on 22 October, and its entrants race the sun from Darwin to Adelaide, one of the strongest local competitors in an estimated field of 45 cars will be Unlimited 5.0.
It’s the culmination of more than two year’s work by the Western Sydney University solar car team, and the latest evolution of a journey that began in 2013. Once the underdogs, and with a history of innovation and pushing the envelope, they’re now potential winners.
“They’ve come a long way from first time Aussie underdogs in 2013 on a shoestring budget. I congratulate both the team and Western Sydney University on their 2023 entry, which a decade on, is an almost unrecognisable evolution from the inaugural car.”
Those are the words of event director Chris Selwood AM. It’s heady praise for a team made up of 25 current and former university students, who are set to take on the world’s best solar car teams in the 3,000km journey from Darwin to Adelaide.
Costing more than $1 million, with the support of a long list of sponsors, Unlimited 5.0 was custom-built to not only meet, but exceed event standards in key areas, including safety, stability and driver visibility.
“We’ve learned from our past events, it’s not one big idea that wins, it’s a combination of factors and teamwork. Our aim for this car is to be our most reliable so far,” team manager Brad Nadalini said.
“We strongly believe that reducing failures and repairs is the best way to win the BWSC, and this adds to our longstanding objective to reduce material and resource wastage.”
The team’s strategic approach incorporates machine learning using comprehensive cloud computing platform AWS technology, while the steering wheel is totally wireless, allowing for a quick and convenient egress.
Thanks to being one of the few Australian educational institutes to have a large-scale 5-axis CNC on site, they’ve also been able to make their chassis from start to finish, in-house. It’s why they’re considered one of strongest contenders for the event.
First run in 1987, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is the largest and most prestigious solar car race in the world. It attracts entries from across the globe, with teams having to design, engineer and build their entries by hand.
Once the teams have left Darwin they must travel as far as they can until 5pm in the afternoon, where they make camp in the desert, wherever they happen to be. All teams must be fully self-sufficient and for all concerned, it is a great adventure.
During the journey there are nine mandatory check points where observers are changed and team managers may update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their position in the field.
At check points, teams can perform the most basic of maintenance only: checking and maintenance of tyre pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle. The BWSC is operated across three classes.
The main Challenger Class is conducted in a single stage from Darwin to Adelaide. The Cruiser Class is conducted as 3 x 1,200km stages without recharging. The Adventure Class is a non-competitive class which provides opportunity for cars built for previous events.
You can find out more at https://worldsolarchallenge.org/ – pictures courtesy of Jonathan Allen.