Ingenious fin-topped solar car triumphs in harsh Australian race

Solar-powered Infinite Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Winner 2023
In the face of daunting obstacles, the solar-powered Infinite clinched victory in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Images courtesy Innoptus Solar Team

The air was filled with exhilarating tension and anticipation as solar-powered cars lined up to race across the vast, unforgiving terrain of Australia in the esteemed Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC). Belgium’s team, Innoptus, spectacularly soared through unpredictable winds and obscured sun due to wildfires, victoriously securing first place for the second consecutive time in the race that inspires engineers, mostly students worldwide, to innovate and compete in solar vehicle technology.

The BWSC, a prestigious event that takes place biennially, embarked on a riveting journey from Darwin to Adelaide, challenging teams to be self-reliant in the raw Australian outback. Each single-seat vehicle in the Challenger Class, where the Belgians claimed victory, is permitted one driver at a time, with the option of swapping the driver up to six times. The solar cars engaged in a daily race against time from 8 AM to 5 PM, requiring teams to camp along the route, bearing the responsibility of maintaining their vehicles’ optimum working condition throughout.

The grueling competition unfolded some breathtaking moments and challenges as the teams navigated through 3,000 kilometers of Australia’s harsh climate. Notably, the 2021 event was called off due to COVID restrictions, making the 2023 race a phenomenal comeback. This year’s face-off witnessed the Belgian team maintain a delicate lead, completing the formidable course in 34 hours, 4 minutes, and 41 seconds, subtly outpacing their own 2019 winning time by nearly five minutes. In a fierce contest, the Netherlands team, Twente, followed closely, concluding their journey with a time of 34 hours, 24 minutes, and 58 seconds.

The intricate rules of the competition stipulate that the competing cars should not exceed 5 meters in length and 2.2 meters in width, necessitating a minimum of three wheels. The solar arrays, a fundamental aspect of the vehicles, are confined to an area not larger than 4 square meters. This parameter underscores the significance of leveraging every ounce of sunlight, a task made Herculean this year due to the interferences caused by the wildfire smoke.

Solar-powered Infinite Innoptus Team
Depicted in jubilant celebration, the victorious Innoptus team hails from KU Leuven in Belgium.

Innoptus, with a strategy well-calibrated to adapt to the daunting variables such as fluctuating weather, bushfires, and clouds, demonstrated commendable precision and adaptability. Their triumph was attributed in part to a unique innovation – a fin mounted atop their car, named Infinite. This thoughtfully designed fin played a crucial role in stabilizing the car against challenging crosswinds that intensified during the race.

The competition was fierce, with the Innoptus team consistently strategizing to stay minutes ahead of their rivals. Their relentless effort and ingenuity bore fruit, marking their 10th car designed for the BWSC since its inception in 1987 as a winner. Check out the reveal video of the solar car below.

Source: Innoptus Solar Team