The Tokai University Student Achievement Center's solar car team (Tokai University Solar Car Team) participated in the world's largest solar car race, the '2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC 2023),' held in Australia from October 22 to 29. The participation structure for this challenge was announced by the University on August 29. This announcement was made at the 'Bridgestone Solar Car Summit 2023,' an event organized by Bridgestone at the Bridgestone Innovation Park (Kodaira City, Tokyo). During this event, a new vehicle was presented, and a test run was conducted at the facility.
With Bridgestone as its title sponsor, the BWSC is a solar car race held in Australia, and it represents an industry-academia collaboration between students and companies. The race aims to cover 3,000 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia in approximately five days. The race is held once every two years, and this year, it was scheduled from October 22 to 29. The previous tournament was unfortunately canceled owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and this year marks the first race in four years.
In total, 41 teams from over 20 countries and regions participated in this tournament. Along with Tokai University, Kogakuin University, Wakayama University and Goko High School also participated as Japanese entrants. The tournament comprises two classes: the 'Challenger Class,' which is based on time evaluations, and the 'Cruiser Class,' which is based on energy efficiency and practicality evaluations. Among these, all participating teams from Japan enrolled in the Challenger Class.
Tokai University Solar Car Team developed a new vehicle, Tokai challenger, with the aid of companies such as Toray, Daiwa Living, Yugen, and Bridgestone. The developed vehicle is approximately 5 meters long, 1.2 meters wide and 1 meter high, and it weighs approximately 140 kilograms. It is capable of cruising at 90 kilometers per hour in sunlight, with a maximum speed of 120 kilometers per hour.
The three concepts involved in its design include the following: pushing performance limits, ensuring running stability, and consideration for the environment. To realize these design concepts, a three-wheel type vehicle, which was made available for selection from this year, was chosen, and a solar car with two front wheels and one rear wheel was designed. In addition to the aerodynamic drag reduction technologies using 3D curved surfaces developed to date, the compositions and materials of carbon fibers were reviewed to achieve an ultra-lightweight body and driving stability against crosswinds while maintaining strength. Furthermore, the environmentally friendly design used recycled carbon fiber materials for the front inner spats, rear inner spats, and cockpit floor surfaces.
In total, 29 expedition members headed to Australia, and this team includes 16 students, three faculty members, two staff members, and eight special advisors.
The general director of the team is Lecturer Kouhei Sagawa of the Department of Mechanical Systems Engineering at the School of Engineering; its team leader is Graduate Student Ichiro Uto of the Graduate School of Engineering, and its supervisors are Professor Hideki Kimura of the Department of Mechanical Systems Engineering at the School of Engineering and Professor Kota Fukuda of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the School of Engineering. Four drivers participated in the tournament, and two of these were students.
In addition, the team includes domestic support members who are tasked with the analysis of meteorological satellite images obtained from the Himawari meteorological satellite and the execution of support by sending information including cloud conditions and solar radiation to the local area and public relation activities.
Uto stated before the start of the event, "We will accelerate the development of solar power generation and other energy-creating and energy-saving technologies and challenge the world with a solar car that is jointly developed by our university and companies, aiming to win the title at the BWSC 2023." (Tokai University claimed 5th place in the challenger category)
General Manager Naotaka Kajio of the Motor Sports Division at Bridgestone also said, "In the 2019 competition, the runner-up Tokai University team achieved excellent results using silicon panels, while several other universities from Europe and the United States of America used expensive gallium arsenide solar panels. It was wonderful to witness the team effort involved in overtaking the vehicles of other strong teams. Because renewed rules mandate the use of only silicon panels this year, the tournament will be held under equal conditions, and I anticipate the competition to be even fiercer."
To date, Tokai University Solar Car Team has won the BWSC in 2009 and 2011 and secured the second, third, fourth and second places in the years 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, respectively. In the meantime, the team has also participated in the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, wining the overall championship thrice and securing the second place twice.
Bridgestone, as the title sponsor since 2013, has organized the BWSC as an open platform to foster future mobility professionals through extreme challenges and create next-generation innovative technologies. The BWSC's goal is to contribute to the realization of a sustainable mobility society by promoting the development of technologies capable of achieving high-level environmental and motion performance. For this year's competition, the company will supply a record number of 35 teams with 'ENLITEN' technology tires and other products customized for the company's solar-powered cars.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. (https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.