Why Cambridge Withdrew From World Solar Challenge 2013


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RESOLUTION of UK's CUER (Cambridge University Eco Racing) team after a crash that damaged some solar panels in the right front portion of the RESOLUTION, contributed to its instability, and prevented it from participating in the race (photo credit: sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker of www.sunisthefuture.net)

The only entrant in the trans-continental World Solar Challenge 2013 from Britain was Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team. This year, CUER team entered the race with an innovative design, RESOLUTION, with tilted solar panels and the body shape of a torpedo.  RESOLUTION is named after the HMS Resolution,

HMS Resolution by Henry Roberts

in which Captain James Cook made his second voyage of exploration to the South Pacific to search for the fabled Terra Australis. This ship was the successor to HMS Endeavour. HMS Resolution performed some remarkable feats, becoming the first ship in the world to cross the Antarctic Circle, exactly 240 years ago (in 1773) setting a record for the furthest southern latitude ever explored. So, CUER’s RESOLUTION is a name that reflects spirit of adventure, exploration and determination. Below, is a video clip of the making of CUER’s RESOLUTION:

Unfortunately, this daring design experienced a  crash before the time trials (to determine the grid positions of all solar cars in the race). While the vehicle was operable after the crash, the team could not be assured of the safety of its solar car drivers as a result of tests conducted after crash repairs, indicating “revealed new dynamic instabilities, which we have not been able to fix in the time we have left before the race.”

However, in this race where the emphasis is place on collaboration and learning, there are many positives and lessons that can be taken from this year’s event for CUER, listed in an official statement provided by the team:

First and foremost, our engineers have ensured that our drivers have been safe at all times, with the car’s crash structure performing as designed in the event of an accident. Secondly, Resolution produced its best ever results while testing in Australia, indicating that CUER would have been on target to be competitive. Additionally, we have developed several new and innovative technologies over this design cycle: the tracking plate, flexible fairings, and concentrator systems – all of which will stand CUER in good stead for future competitions. And finally: Resolution has been an inspiration – to us; to the many members of the public who have been able to see her displayed; and to the next generation of engineers.

To this, I would simply add that RESOLUTION is a daring design because of its short axle track (between the two front wheel).  The axle track in automobiles and other wheeled vehicles which have two or more wheels on an axle, is the distance between the centerline of two roadwheels on the same axle, each on the other side of the vehicle. After practicing yoga, gymnastics,  martial arts for decades, intuitively I would sense that vehicles with shorter track distance (all other conditions are the same) would be more susceptible to rollover under windy condition or turning at corners/curves.

At this point, please allow me to share some information on basic dynamics and vehicles with you:

  1. All vehicles are susceptible to rollovers to various extents. Generally, the higher the center of mass, the narrower the axle track,

    Track (measured between center line of wheels, credit: Wikimedia Commons)

    the more sensitive the steering, and the higher the speed, the more likely a vehicle is to roll over.

  2. Vehicle rollovers are divided into two categories: tripped and untripped. Tripped rollovers are caused by forces from an external object, such as a curb or a collision with another vehicle. Untripped crashes are the result of steering input, speed, and friction with the ground.
  3. In an event without forces from an external object, untripped rollovers occur when cornering forces destabilize the vehicle. As a vehicle rounds a corner, three forces act on it: tire forces (the centripetal force), inertial effects (the centrifugal force), and gravity. The cornering forces from the tire push the vehicle towards the center of the curve. This force acts at ground level, below the center of mass. The force of inertia acts horizontally through the vehicle’s center of mass away from the center of the turn. These two forces make the vehicle roll towards the outside of the curve. The force of the vehicle’s weight acts downward through the center of mass in the opposite direction. When the tire and inertial forces are enough to overcome the force of gravity, the vehicle starts to turn over.

Having a wider axle track is analogous to a yogi having a wider stance. This would lead to more stability for the yogi’s position (with feet instead of wheels). So it stands to reason that having a shorter axle track (as seen above in RESOLUTION of UK’s CUER team) would lead to less stable stance for a solar car.

Once again, allow me to point out that World Solar Challenge is a solar car race that is focused on collaboration and learning.  I can assure you that all members of the CUER team has learned a great deal in preparation for World Solar Challenge 2013 and in having participated in this race. They have good reason to proudly hold their heads up high,

Team member of CUER team of UK walking along side of RESOLUTION, waving and looking forward to becoming a stronger contestant in WSC 2015. (photo credit: sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker at www.sunisthefuture.net)

waving, and looking forward to becoming a stronger contestant for World Solar Challenge 2015. As Captain Cook would have done so, holding his head up high and continued on with his voyages, searching. As all solar innovators would have done so, after multitude of defeats, we’d continue on, searching for a better, cheaper, cleaner, safer way of lighting up/powering the world, regardless what obstacles had been placed before us.

Please also get into the habit of checking at these sites below for more on World Solar Challenge 2013 and solar energy topics:










~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

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