Solar Team Eindhoven has had a completely new solar panel flown in for the solar car that they are using in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia. The Stella Era, as the car is called, suffered severe damage on its way to Australia. As a result, the rearmost and most important solar panel of the car could no longer be salvaged. A new panel has now been made in the Netherlands and sent on to the team.

It is a race against time to get the car in shape on time. The world championship starts in a month. “We have considered various options, but eventually opted for a completely new solar panel”, says Katelijn van Kooten, exterior designer at Solar Team Eindhoven. The panel has now been custom-made for the solar car by a partner of the team. “We hope it will arrive in Australia soon. But we think it’s even more important that it really gets here in one piece,” she says. “The transport will be done in the same way as last time, so its a bit of a nail biter.”

One of the beams of the transport container probably came loose during transport by plane and truck to Darwin. That beam made a hole in one of the solar panels on the car. “The rear solar panel is the most efficient because it has the best position relative to the sun.” Whether or not the new panel will be as efficient as the old one is still a mystery, in her view. “We are going to test its capacity as soon as it arrives in Australia.” If the team is able to keep the world title is open to question. “Not until after the tests will we know what our chances will be in the race.”

The broken solar panel is also a financial setback for the students.  They have set up a crowdfunding account so as to cover all unforeseen costs.

Uitpakken beschadigde kist

More Dutch teams

Despite the hard work, the students are having a great time in Australia. “Darwin is a small town, so we meet other teams all over the place there,” says Van Kooten. “We are even having a barbecue at the end of the week with the team from Delft.” The teams are not competing with each other.

The Eindhoven students are building a solar-powered family car, while the Delft team is building a Challenger, a fast car. Just as the other Dutch teams from Twente and Groningen are also doing. The participants cover a distance of more than 3000 kilometres from north to south Australia during the race. “The other Dutch teams are all about speed. The most important thing in our category is a practical and efficient car. These are totally different things.”

The car of the future

A family car is much more challenging to make, according to the designer. “We’re really working on the car of the future.” The Cruiser Class, as the race category is called for family cars, is relatively new as well. ” This makes it a bit more difficult”, says Van Kooten. “The Challenger Class, which is all about speed, has been around for a long time. So the teams that participate in it have a lot of input from previous years. We don’t have that much in our case.” Despite all the setbacks, the team says it will do everything in its power to win. The race starts on 13 October in Darwin and ends on 20 October in Adelaide.

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