ETH Zurich team in Australia: the self-built solar car is rolling successfully so far
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ETH Zurich team in Australia: the self-built solar car is rolling successfully so far

Martin Jungfer
24.10.2023
Translation: machine translated

3000 kilometres from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south - in five days and using only the power of the sun. The Swiss team is well on track with their car, christened "Aletsch".

This article was published on Tuesday. At this point, the "Alpha Centauri" team from ETH Zurich is still in the race. They are currently travelling through Australia with their car powered solely by solar energy. The World Solar Challenge is a car race in which no engines rattle. The only sound is the airstream.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) is an event for solar-powered vehicles in Australia. It showcases innovations in sustainable energy applications. The aim of each team is to design and build a solar car capable of travelling across the Australian outback at the highest average speed using only sunlight as an energy source. The race starts in Darwin and ends in Adelaide after more than 3000 kilometres. This year it runs from 22 to 29 October, including camping in the outback and driver changes at checkpoints. The event takes place every two years and attracts teams from more than 20 countries, international companies, researchers and educational institutions. The predecessor to the BWSC is the Tour de Sol, which was held in Switzerland in 1985.
The route of the race runs from north to south through Australia.
The route of the race runs from north to south through Australia.
Source: BWSC

50 teams have entered the race. All of them worked for months to build a car that pushes the boundaries of solar technology and electromobility. There is not a Tesla to be seen at the race, which takes place every two years. No car is a mass product. Instead, the teams tinkered with their own models. Including the team from Zurich. Their car is called "Aletsch", named after the largest Swiss glacier.

When the car is not running, there is time for small improvements and repairs.
When the car is not running, there is time for small improvements and repairs.
Source: Alpha Centauri

At the moment, it is still in the race. And that is certainly a success, as driver Jonas Rudin tells me in a WhatsApp chat. They are now the only one of the eight newcomer teams that have not yet been eliminated. There were difficulties along the way, but the mood was good and they were "extremely proud" to have already made it halfway through the outback. (The current times of the Swiss team and the ranking can be found here.)

One of the challenges so far has been a burst tyre on the open track. Changing the tyre took time, but the most important thing was that the race continued. And the team is not satisfied with just keeping the car running. As soon as the drive ends at 5 p.m. each day according to the regulations and the night camp is set up, the repairs and optimisations begin.

A burst tyre on the open track challenges the team.
A burst tyre on the open track challenges the team.
Source: Alpha Centauri

Sealing compound and foam rubber were used to plug holes in some areas that were disrupting the aerodynamics. The efficiency gain is around 30 per cent, says Jonas. "The car now drives like a champ." The team also noticed that the front wheels were not running completely parallel. This also cost speed - and was largely to blame for the tyre blowout.

"We're learning every day and making brutal improvements," says Jonas, summarising the race so far. Then he has given me enough information and has to go back to the others in the camp. "The kitchen fairy has conjured up some delicious food in the outback."

If you want to find out more about Alpha-Centauri-Solar-Racing, you can here or read older reports. If you would like to support the team financially, you can do so through the crowdfunding campaign. The team also regularly shares exciting insights via Instagram.

Cover photo: Alpha Centauri

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Journalist since 1997. Stopovers in Franconia (or the Franken region), Lake Constance, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Zurich. Father since 2014. Expert in editorial organisation and motivation. Focus on sustainability, home office tools, beautiful things for the home, creative toys and sports equipment. 


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