British team set to shine at World Solar Challenge 2013

Highly innovative bullet shaped solar vehicle enters marathon across Australia

A young British racing team has one of the best chances in a decade for victory in the World Solar Challenge, a gruelling 3,000 km marathon across the heart of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide, starting in October 2013.  Less than a year after a rule change opened up the field, the Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) team is test-driving Resolution, its game changing solar innovation, at Millbrook on 5thJuly 2013.

Resolution with team members Oliver Armitage, Lucy Fielding and Keno Mario-Ghae

Team Manager, Keno Mario-Ghae, a second year engineering student at Girton College, explains the challenge: to design and build a vehicle that will use the power of the sun to average 80 km/h in one of the world’s harshest environments.  Every element of the ultra-light vehicle – shaped like a bullet – has been designed with the single objective of improving its race time.

“The margin between first and second place in the 2011 race was just 30 minutes. The narrowly beaten Dutch team are national heroes that previously won the race four times in succession, so we are not underestimating the strength of the competition,” he says.

The student team developed a set of modelling tools and tested and rejected many concepts until they finalised the groundbreaking design. Resolution weighs just 120kg and carries the world’s most efficient terrestrial solar array embedded within a unique aft-facing sun tracking plate that follows the trajectory of the sun. Use of this plate provides a 20 per cent gain in power.

The cockpit is tiny and the four-person driving team must endure 4-hour stints in 40°c temperatures. Millbrook Proving Ground will provide invaluable experience for driving across all terrains in preparation of the challenge of keeping Resolution on the road against fierce cross winds and a substantial road camber.

Practice is essential. In the 2011 competition, the 4th placed team could change a driver and two wheels in less than 30 seconds.

Resolution will have advanced on-board telemetry, which will take into account traffic, weather and driving style, to help advise the team on how to reach their optimum efficiency.

Race strategy is key, and testing at Jaguar Land Rover’s state-of –the-art facility will allow the team to simulate environmental conditions including the ‘Australian sun’ on a rolling road.

Emil Hewage drove CUER’s entry in the 2011 competition. He says that the biggest challenge was a sudden bush fire.

“Our scout car saw the fire and importantly, the shadow cast by its huge smoke plume.  We were able to adjust our race plan and pass through the smoke as quickly as possible, to get back into the sunlight.  In this competition you are always balancing the budget of energy input against speed gain.”

A rule change in June 2012 was designed to stimulate innovation and make the challenge more relevant to the automotive industry.  Only four-wheel vehicles are allowed, with each wheel at the corner of a rectangle, this change has meant many teams were sent back to the drawing board and has opened up the competition for those agile enough to respond.

For example, locating the motor in the wheel hub helps Resolution have a 98 per cent efficient drive train, allowing her to exceed speeds of 100 km/h on the power equivalent to a hair dryer.

Resolution’s innovative design reflects the team’s knowledge of automotive engineering and aerodynamics, as well as sophisticated modelling, space-grade composites and optimised solar cells.  The result is a vehicle that rewrites the rule book for solar vehicles but still meets the race parameters and is an exemplar of British ingenuity.

CUER are grateful for the support of Jaguar Land Rover, Cambridge Precision, Millbrook Proving Ground, ARM and the many other individuals and companies that have contributed their support, advice and time.  All support is very welcome please contact or visit

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Notes for editors follow: –

Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER)

Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER) is a 60 strong student organisation that designs, build and races solar powered vehicles.

Our racing cars showcase cutting-edge sustainable engineering and demonstrate the incredible potential of electric vehicle technologies. By designing a car to run on solar power alone, we are driving the step changes in vehicle efficiency and new technologies for a low-carbon future.

The team is inclusive and contains many students from different disciplines.

We are very grateful for the support of the advisory board that includes Dr Hermann Hauser CBE, (Chair) Prof Peter Guthrie OBE, Prof Tony Purnell, Charles Cotton, Hugh Parnell, Richard Hobbs and Martin McBrien

Also that of our sponsors Jaguar Land Rover, Cambridge Precision, Millbrook, ARM and that of the many other individuals and companies that have contributed their support, advice and time.


Dr Hermann Hauser CBE, Chair of the Advisory Board for CUER

“The UK may not have the sunshine but it does have innovation in solar technology.  Success in technology development comes from having a single focus – you have to do one thing and do it better than anyone in the world – this is reflected in the design strategy adopted by CUER and I wish them all the best in the World Solar Challenge.”

Andrew Foster, Chief Engineer at Range Rover and Land Rover Body Programmes

“Jaguar Land Rover support CUER through the Cambridge University Engineering Department (CUED) Student Projects Industry Partnership (SPIP), providing access to our world class automotive development experts and facilities. We have been impressed with the team’s creativity, ambition and determination, which have led to the launch of this vehicle, and wish the team luck for a successful 2013 World Solar Challenge.”

Miguel Fragoso, Managing Director at Millbrook Proving Ground

“We are delighted to assist the Cambridge University Eco Racing Team in preparing their drivers and testing the resilience of their vehicle on Millbrook’s track facilities.  We wish them every success in the World Solar Challenge.”

Background to the World Solar Challenge – 6- 13 October 2013

CUER first entered the World Solar Challenge in 2009, with Endeavour. Despite battery issues, the team finished a very respectable 14th place out of 26 entrants. It returned in 2011 following a substantial redesign. Alas, bush fires, and poor weather conditions meant only 7 of the 37 entrants completed the race on solar power alone. But CUER won the Safety Award for demonstrating the highest standard of safe and consistent racing – an award which usually goes to one of the race front-runners.

A change in the rules has opened up the 2013 competition – the stipulation that cars competing in the newly introduced 2 main classes (Challenger Class and Cruiser Class) must have 4 wheels has relegated traditional 3-wheeled designs to the entry level Adventure Class. This, combined with stricter headspace requirements and a more upright seating position, has signalled a move towards more commercial designs.

48 teams, from 26 countries have entered the 2013 World Solar Challenge, the largest number of entrants the competition has ever had.

Tokai University Japan won the Challenger class in 2011 and 2009,

TU Delft, Netherlands won the same category in 2007, 2005, 2003 and 2001.

CUER entry Resolution

Some of the innovations:-

  • Solar panels are housed within an aft-facing sun tracking plate that follows the trajectory of the sun, creating a 20 per cent gain in power.
  • The motor is located in the hub of the wheel, so there is no need for gears, chains or differentials, which each account for a five per cent loss in efficiency.
  • A canopy to house the space grade solar cells decouples the aerodynamic and solar performances of the car, making the design highly efficient.
  • The solar cells will charge Panasonic laptop batteries which are the most efficient available.  

Resolution’s technical specifications

  • Length – 4.5m, Width – 0.8m, Height – 1.1m
  • Top Speed – 140 km/h
  • Weight – 120 kg
  • Solar Cells – 1000
  • BatteryRange– 800 km
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