From Ardingly to Australia

Pupils get set to race their solar car 3,000km across Australia after a three-year build

Five intrepid Ardingly College students are preparing to head to Australia to race their own student-built, solar-powered electric car across 3,020 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide.  

The last three years has seen their 80-strong team balance GCSE, A levels and the International Baccalaureate whilst working round-the-clock to build their own Cruiser class Solar Electric Vehicle (EV).  

They are putting the finishing touches to their vehicle before conducting rigorous road-tests. The modified Lotus 7 chassis is fitted with a custom-built composite shell and 24% efficient Silicon Photovoltaic solar panels. Regulations stipulate that a Cruiser class vehicle must be practical, have four wheels and upright seating for passengers. It needs to comply with a staggering 43 pages and 366 regulations, or risk exclusion from the world’s ultimate solar marathon.

Students lay down the first solar panels

David Smith, Chief Financial Officer from Rolls Royce, has praised the students’ efforts: ‘The solar car is a tremendously ambitious project and a great challenge for Ardingly pupils and staff, in an exciting area of technology. I look forward to seeing them on the road crossing the Australian desert!’

When the race starts on October 18th, the drivers will be prepared to face hazards such as car and bush fires, road trains, cattle grids and kangaroos, all of which in the past have caused teams to flip their vehicles or swerve out of control. Snakes, spiders and scorpions are other dangers, particularly when the team sets up camp in the desert at night. Temperatures of over 45ËšC have been recorded during the race and the inside of a Solar EV can be 10ËšC warmer. With no air conditioning, drivers will also have to take care to stay hydrated.   

Matt Price, Team Manager, said: “Once we clear quarantine and scrutineering, the real adventure takes off… 3,000km, six days in the Outback, three EV drivers, two support vehicles, tents, snakes, spiders, and kangaroos!”

Ardingly’s drivers are Mechanics Manager Holly Hill, from Houston, Texas; Media Manager James Price, Luke Smith and Henry Hinder, all from Sussex.  Team Manager Matt Price (17), also from Sussex, completes the support team. 

The Ardingly Solar project has received over £100,000 worth of financial and practical support from industry and sponsors. These include DHL, McLaren, GTR, Time24, Elekta, NTCadcam and Lincoln Binns, whose CEO John Binns has been the team’s ‘Mentor in Industry’.  

Ardingly’s Head of Physics and project supervisor Dr Andrew Spiers says the three-year task has transported industry into the classroom, helped pupils recognize the imperatives of sustainable transport, understand the importance of green technologies, learn above and beyond the curriculum, acquire new skills in business, design and manufacture and, above all, “it has empowered students to make a difference.”    

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