Team Sonnenwagen Aachen is a collective of engineering students from RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Sciences. In October 2017 they will compete in the World Solar Challenge, a 3022km race across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide, in a solar-powered vehicle that they must design and build themselves. Farnell element14 is supporting Team Sonnenwagen Aachen with components and equipment to assist in their build. You can follow their progress as they prepare for their trip to Australia right here on the element14 Community.
We sat down with the team's Head of Driving Strategy Martin Kosch to find out more about the team and their venture...
In a nutshell, what is the World Solar Challenge?
The World Solar Challenge is a race for solar cars through the Australian outback from Darwin to Adelaide, covering a distance of more than 3000 km. Every two years, about 40 teams from different universities and companies develop and build their own solar powered cars in a bid to accomplish the adventurous trip in the shortest time possible. The competing vehicles must use the available solar power extremely efficiently, while also being robust enough to withstand the rough environmental conditions on the road.
How did Team Sonnenwagen Aachen become involved in the World Solar Challenge?
The story of Team Sonnenwagen Aachen started in the shared flat of some of our founding members. They heard about the World Solar Challenge from the news and were so excited about it that they decided to establish their own solar racing team. Within a few months, the team grew to our current size of about 40 people and is now the first team in Germany that will compete in the so-called Challenger Class in October 2017.
How has RWTH Aachen University supported the project?
We are very grateful to be supported by a number of institutes from RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Science. They mainly help us with technical questions and let us use their workshops and machines.
What are the main challenges you've faced so far?
In contrast to the more established teams competing in the World Solar Challenge, we could not use the whole project time to concentrate on technical questions. Instead, we had to spend significant time on building up the necessary infrastructure to run such a project, for instance making first contacts for financial and technical support, moving in to our own office and much more.
What are your main goals for this project?
Considering that usually most of the competing teams in the World Solar Challenge do not manage to finish the challenging race course without major technical problems, that would be our first goal. Apart from that, we aim for a position among the top ten, which is definitely ambitious enough for our first race.
What skills and qualities does Team Sonnenwagen Aachen have that you believe can set you apart from the competition?
Our team members come from two different universities: RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Science. The first focuses on theoretical approaches while the latter focuses on practical implementation. I believe that this diversity makes us unique and helps us to be successful.
Tell us about some of the partners and collaborators you're working with on this project
We are happy to collaborate with a growing number of companies and institutions. Our main sponsor Huawei for example supports us with communication technology, public relations and the financing of components. Many other companies provide us with their know-how or help us with the sponsoring of components.
How did Premier Farnell become involved in the project?
For the construction of our solar car, we rely strongly on light and efficient electronic components, and access to a well-equipped electronic workshop. When we heard that Premier Farnell already supports other student initiatives, we decided to approach them for sponsorship. Thanks to them, we now have our own electronics workshop.
Tell us about the technology you'll be using on this project
Our solar car has to be as efficient as possible. It is therefore mostly made of a lightweight combination of carbon and aluminium. We use one of our escort vehicles to monitor all sensor data in our solar car during the race. In that car - which acts as our mobile command centre - we also receive the latest weather forecasts from a mobile internet connection. All data is used in a complex simulation to calculate the optimal speed that should be driven. That data will then be transferred back to the solar car wirelessly.
What are the next steps for the project?
Most of the parts of the vehicle are already developed and are now about to be built and tested in reality We're also finalising the logistics for our forthcoming trip to Australia in October. .
Who are some of your personal engineering heroes?
What advice would you give to other engineering teams who would like to participate in a project like World Solar Challenge?
Think big and start early!