Energy strategy to be tested on solar-powered car

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

Energy strategy to be tested on solar-powered car

A team of researchers will test an energy management strategy that maximises efficiency in balancing solar input, battery storage potential and energy output at the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in October.

The challenge will see teams compete to create sustainable, solar-powered electric vehicles able to travel 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide.

The energy management system, developed by University of South Australia (UniSA) PhD student Erika Belchamber, will feature on a ‘Cruiser Class’ solar car developed by the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN). As well as UniSA, team members are from Queensland University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney, RMIT University and Curtin University.

Belchamber said the system has real-world residential and commercial applications.

“In the race, the system ensures we travel the maximum distance each day with the available amount of light, getting the greatest efficiency from the solar energy,” she said. “But equally, you can think of a house with solar panels and a battery as a solar car without wheels, so everything we explore through the race will be applicable for renewable energy use in the wider world.”

The energy industry has also shown an interest in the system, which has the potential to maximise the value of variable renewable inputs like wind and solar as part of a mixed source electrical feed.

“The system uses rapid input predictions based on the best and worst possible scenarios for generation, and then decides the best balance between storage and output.

“In commercial applications, by combining this with energy tariff information and availability from different sources, you could tailor the efficiency of the system in different ways, such as to be the most cost-effective for the end user or to use the most renewables possible,” Belchamber explained.

To test the car in preparation for the challenge, the team has been using modelling techniques in RMIT’s industrial wind tunnel. Matt Millar, RMIT Master of Design student and lead driver for the ATN  solar car team, said the tunnel “can reproduce wind effects up to 150 km/h, allowing us to simulate race speeds, wind drag and validate projections and estimations with real data”.

Road testing is expected to begin in June, before the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge takes place on 13–20 October 2019.

Image credit: ©

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