Winds of change blow through University of Sussex

The institution’s engineering students harnessed the elements to get their wind-powered vehicle up to speed in an international competition

A team of engineers at the University of Sussex have become only the second team of UK students to compete in one of the world’s largest sustainability races with a vehicle powered entirely by the wind.

Sussex Power Storm took on a host of teams from universities around the world at the 11th Racing Aeolus, racing their self-built vehicle in drag races and time trials along a dyke in the Dutch town of Den Helder, finishing fifth and setting a UK record in the process.

The race was the culmination of 11 months’ hard work for the team of 13 engineers, who had trialled their vehicle along Shoreham Port before heading out to the Netherlands for five days of final testing and racing.

Team leader, Toby Young, said: “It’s been a really brilliant experience and given me the opportunity to utilise all of my engineering skills which I’ve learnt at my time in university. It’s also given me the opportunity to work as part of a large team, which has been great fun, but also a big challenge. It has definitely set me up well to start work within industry. We have been competing against teams that have been taking part in Racing Aeolus for many years, while we have started pretty much from scratch, so to be competitive has been a great achievement.”

The team designed a light-framed car with a 1.8m diameter wind turbine linked directly to its wheels. They also developed a gearbox and automatic yawing system to try and maximise the amount of wind they could harness to power the vehicle.

Eight teams from seven countries took part in three days of racing, each aiming to achieve the highest speed as a proportion of average wind speed to find the car which made most efficient use of the wind. The Sussex Power Storm team were able to harness 64.95%, giving them a speed of 6.17 m/s during their most successful run.

Following the university’s successful participation in this year’s race, organisers are urging other UK teams to follow in Sussex’s footsteps and take part in the event in 2019.

Rob Cranfield, Chief Engineer of Sussex Power Storm, said: “We hope our achievements at Racing Aelous 2018 has set a foundation for a future victory in the competition for Sussex, and will help build support from additional sponsors next year. We are now UK record holders and this evidences all our hard work over the last academic year. The project has given team members the vital skills that allowed many of us to already secure jobs at very respectable companies.”