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A Case In Point Racing With The Sun...
author: Morten Rishøj, Market Development Manager, Land Business Unit, Thrane & Thrane

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3021 kilometres. 8 Days. 40 Cars. No fossil fuel. How Thrane & Thrane helped a German university team enter two cutting-edge cars into the world’s leading sustainable vehicle race, the World Solar Challenge…

The 10th World Solar Challenge, which occurred from October 25th to 31st, 2009, is a grueling race that traces a path across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. It is the original solar vehicle race and the unofficial ‘world championships’, so is a proving ground for the solar power technology development of universities, corporations, and even high schools from across the world. The 3021 km course showcases the ingenuity of the teams involved, not least the Bochum University of Applied Sciences Solar Team, who’s Solarworld No 1 and BOcruiser cars finished 9th and 12th, respectively.

As the only team in the race with two cars on the course, reliable communication was particularly important to Bochum and, with the lack of GSM and 3G coverage in central Australia, the team selected EXPLORER terminals from Thrane & Thrane and BGAN services by Inmarsat, for reliable Internet connectivity and voice calling during the race.

SM June '10 SF Thrane Bochum’s communication requirement was two-fold. First, and foremost, the team’s meteorologist would need access to detailed weather information whilst the communications officer required Internet and voice to update the race blog and provide press information. These applications are proven, common EXPLORER uses and the team was confident EXPLORER would perform well during the race.

“We needed Internet access and a satellite telephone. EXPLORER has both in one package, so was the ideal choice for us,” says Philip Rösler, communications engineering student, Bochum University of Applied Sciences Solar Car Team. “In action it was very easy to use. We stored the EXPLORERs in the chase car, which is the command & control vehicle and because they are so easy to set-up, we had Internet and voice quickly available at every control stop.”

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Incredible Performance
In bright sunlight, the six square meters of solar cells aboard Solarworld No 1 produce the power a blow-dryer uses, but due to its award winning efficient design, this is enough to hit speeds of up to 85 km/h. By using the energy stored in the rechargeable batteries, she will reach top speed of 125 km/h. This incredible performance requires the application of all facets of the engineering profession: Teamwork, project management, intercultural perspectives and last but not least, the fascination of modern technology.

However, there is one element that both Solarworld No 1 and BOcruiser need more than anything, and that is sunlight. Which is why the job of Bochum’s meteorologist is vital to the success of the team and the cars. “We had a supporting meteorologist with us for the whole race, whose job was to provide a weather forecast for the following 72 hours on his computing cluster in Austria,” explains Phillip. “We downloaded that forecast in the morning and at every control stop, to ensure that we had the latest weather data. This allowed us to change our approach and driving strategy according to how much and how strong the sunlight would be.”

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To tackle a course of 3021 km using only sunlight for power, there must be an efficient balance between power resources and consumption. This is achieved through using telemetry from the race car and accurate, up to the minute weather and sunlight forecasts. This combined data allows the team to change their driving strategy on the fly to suit the current conditions and the conditions based on the forecast. Without EXPLORER, Bochum would not have had access to the weather forecast, so in combination with sophisticated software, EXPLORER was a vital tool for the team’s meteorologist.

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Philip reports that EXPLORER and BGAN were reliable for everything the team needed during this challenging race.

“We used it for a variety of applications, including uploading texts and photos to our official race blog, for downloading the computed weather report and for reporting our position in the evening to the race officials. Operation was reliable throughout the race, regardless of what we were using EXPLORER for, which is very impressive, considering the remoteness of some of the locations we found ourselves working in. We would definitely use EXPLORER and BGAN for our next challenge,” adds Phillip.

The team has yet to decide where Solarworld No 1 and BOcruiser will next race, but Philip pinpoints one change he would make. “Next time, we would really like the possibility to download weather forecasts when the chase car is moving,” he says. Which is a requirement that EXPLORER has been fulfilling with the EXPLORER 727 for military and media customers around the world for some time now.

If Bochum enters the 11th World Solar Challenge in 2011, Philip may just get his wish of high quality, high speed data on the move.

About the author
Morten Rishøj is Thrane & Thrane’s Market Development Manager for the Land Mobile Business Unit. He has 12 years of experience within product lifecycle management, marketing and sales and is responsible for Thrane & Thrane’s highly regarded land mobile product portfolio, with focus on maintaining commercial strategy, new product launches and integrating customer requirements for upgrades and new products.
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