Belgian Solar Team proudly presents its brand-new solar car

Jul 03, 2019
  • news

On July 3rd, nineteen engineering students from the KU Leuven unveil their brand-new solar car. In the space of exactly one year, they designed, produced and assembled the vehicle which is fully powered by solar energy. For the design of the eighth solar car, the students pulled out all the stops and this model is even smaller than its predecessor. In October, the team will compete in the world championship for solar cars in Australia – their aim is to win the race.

Every two years, the Agoria Solar Team builds a new solar car with the intention of doing an even better job than their predecessors, during the biennial world championships in Australia. Today the new vehicle, called BluePoint, drove its first training meters on the C-mine square, situated between the two old mineshafts. With this location, the students want to highlight the contrast between how power used to be generated back in the day and now.

Energy-efficient and innovative

The BluePoint is the eighth Belgian solar car and is, at the same time, the most aerodynamic vehicle from Belgium. The aerodynamic shape of the vehicle was tinkered for six months in order to get the air resistance this low. “We are proud of the result that we’ve achieved. During the whole race of 3000 kilometers through Australia, the energy consumption of the BluePoint will, according to the calculations, be equivalent to 7 liters of diesel”, said Emmerick Vandervelpen, aerodynamic engineer on the Agoria Solar Team.

Besides the improvements in the aerodynamic sense, there are a few ‘firsts’ in the BluePoint. It’s, for example, the first time that the students have developed the solar panel themselves. In the past, the Belgian Solar Team always used to buy a proprietary panel. By manufacturing the panel themselves,  the team has more control over the production process. This year they chose the most suitable solar cells themselves, connected them and then enveloped the cells with a protective coat. The solar cells are extremely fragile so coating them is a tricky process. Nelis Geurts, the team member in charge of the solar panel: “The solar cells are a lot more energy-efficient than the ones that you see on the roofs in your street. They are also used on satellites and cost as much as a Lamborghini!”

Keep on improving

For the design of the new solar car, the engineering students pulled out all the stops. With a total surface area of 2.6 m², the solar panel of the BluePoint is the same size as its predecessor – the ‘Punch 2’. The new vehicle however, is less wide and has a lower air resistance. But a smaller car also means less space to house the mechanical components. Consequently, the gap between the wheels and the coach work of the vehicle is, in certain places, just a few millimeters. The driver, too, has less freedom of movement. Inge Habets, the Solar Team’s driver, explains “To avoid wasting space unnecessarily, the vehicle has literally been custom-built to fit me. My hips and shoulders perfectly fit in.” It’s been six years since the solar car was driven by a female pilot.

World championship in Australia

On the 13th of October, the Belgian solar car will be on the starting grid of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This is the world championship for solar cars, in which the BluePoint will drive 3,021 kilometers straight across the Australian desert. This edition of the race will see a record number of entries, with 53 student teams from all over the world. The Belgian team is determined to be the first over the finishing line. After a third place in 2017 and a first place in the most extreme race for solar cars in Chile last year, this ambition only grew stronger. "The whole team has given its all for a full year now. We’re totally prepared for the world championship in Australia and have our eyes firmly on the first place,” said Willem-Jan Claes, teamleader of the Agoria Solar Team.

As Innovation Partner, delaware is proud of the hard work put in by the students. At the same time, the company and team Chili are already preparing for the next big race in 2020, in Chile. Romania Knockaert, member of the team for Chili, adds, “We’re very excited that delaware will assist and advise the team in areas such as AI (artificial intelligence) and project management, in order to optimize our achievements for the next race.”

Three things you didn’t know about the world’s largest solar race