De zonneauto van Top Dutch Solar
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The student team from Top Dutch Solar Racing is busy preparing for the solar car race in Morocco: the Solar Challenge Morocco. From the assembly work to writing the software for the car, the students from Groningen are taking matters into their own hands. “We are the underdog in the community, and want to show in Morocco once again that we really can do it,” says Jamie Jankowsky of the communications team.

The race  is scheduled to start on October 25. After the cancellation of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this year, the decision to participate in the race was made. The race kicks off in the Moroccan port city of Agadir. In a journey of over 2400 kilometers, the solar cars will drive past the Atlas Mountains and through the Sahara before returning to Agadir.

The Top Dutch student team from Groningen is busy with preparations on all fronts, from engineering to communications. Project manager Calvin Beijering explains: “At the moment, our tour organization is in Morocco to see what it’s like there. We need to know where the right locations are to stop, should that be necessary. Plus we need to know more about the traffic situation in the country. You never know what could happen. Who knows, a camel might run across the road that you then have to swerve around,” he jokes.

In the Netherlands, too, preparations are not at a standstill. “The last parts of the solar car are currently being manufactured, such as the parts of the steering mechanism. We have presented the car like to this to the outside world, the design is ready and the exterior looks nice and neat.” The team expects to start testing the car in late August. “We’re going to drive on several circuits, such as the TT circuit in Assen. We also plan to go to the RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority) test circuit in Lelystad. We’ll be testing there to see what it’s like to drive in a convoy, as we’ll be driving several cars behind each other in Morocco.”

The solar car: Taking matters into their own hands

On July 7, the team comprising 23 students unveiled the design of the new solar car: Green Lightning. “The car is very energy efficient and much more efficient than conventional cars on the road,” says Beijering. “It has a different suspension mechanism with some new engineering innovations.”

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The Top Dutch Solar team. Photo credit: Harjan Offereins

The car features even more unique designs. Beijering explains. “Green Lightning has a kind of teardrop shape. So when you have crosswind, that crosswind actually tries to push the car off the road. This takes up a lot of energy when you’re driving. What you actually want is for the car to be on a bit at an angle on the road, not straight. Then the side of the car is utilized as a kind of sail and you need less energy to drive. You also have greater stability of the car then because it doesn’t get blown off the road as hard. You do this by steering both the front and rear wheels in the same direction, changing the angle of the car relative to the road. So then the car moves across the road kind of like a crab.”

Beijering reckons that the thing that further sets the car apart from solar cars from other competing student teams is primarily the manufacturing process. “We have a solar car that we have designed entirely on our own. We do the machining of the materials ourselves, along with the assembly and writing of the software. I think that’s great to see.”

Solar Team Twente also recently unveiled their new solar car. Read more about it here.

Healthy competition from other student teams

The other student teams from Twente, Delft and Eindhoven have proven to be successful in the solar community on many occasions, according to Jankowsky. But during the solar race in Australia in 2019, the Groningen team proved their worth for the first time ever. “That was the first race we participated in and we finished in fourth place back then as the best Dutch team. That’s pretty special, because the team from Delft, for example, has been at it for over 20 years. We are the underdog in the community, but we’ve already proven that we have a lot going for us. We hope to prove ourselves again in Morocco.”

In the spring, the Top Dutch team dropped by the three other teams to shoot a campaign. “We got together with all three competing solar teams (Eindhoven, Twente and Delft) in April 2021 to film the “Unity in Solar Power” campaign,” says Jankowsky. “That’s a video with the main message ‘when it comes to climate change, there is no competition.’ Although we as Dutch solar teams are competitors with each other during the race, we still have the same goal: Fighting climate change. So we paid all three teams a visit and filmed with them. That has never happened before in the history of the Dutch teams.”

Yet Jankowsky also sensed a healthy competitive atmosphere. “For example, we were not allowed to enter the workshop, because that’s where the other team’s solar car is. Of course, as an rival team we aren’t allowed to know anything about the details.” When the team visited Eindhoven, the atmosphere was very different. “That’s because they are competing in a different racing class. We were allowed to look at the workshop there and ask anything we wanted.”

A Top Dutch hydrogen-powered car?

The Top Dutch team has some big plans to work on over the coming years. For example, the team wants to become more well-known throughout the Netherlands. “Lots of Groningers have not heard about us yet. That’s a shame, because we want to show people what we have to offer. The sides of the solar car feature buildings from Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe. We are going to work on building up a reputation that the other student teams from the Netherlands have already built up.”

“In addition, we also aim to innovate more over the next few years,” adds Beijering. ” We are focusing on solar energy for the race in Morocco, but there are other ways to make a positive contribution to the energy transition, and we definitely want to do that. In the future, for example, we want to experiment more with hydrogen. How cool would it be if there is a Top Dutch hydrogen-powered car?”


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