Deakin solar car rolls out for test drive

Geelong’s Deakin University engineering students are about to roll out for a test drive one of the most unusual vehicles ever built in this city, once the centre of Ford manufacturing – the car they designed and built for the 2023 World Solar Challenge.

The road tests come after a disrupted three years preparation which was interrupted by lockdowns, Covid-19 interruptions, a postponed race, and makeshift home workshops and online learning.

Deakin engineering graduate and the solar team’s head mechanical engineer Angus McDonald said: “We cannot wait to take this car for a spin.

“The whole idea of a student-built, hyper efficient, safe, electric solar vehicle makes the whole project so exciting.

“Now that we’re at the testing stage, to be able to drive this car around, is not only a thrill but something that makes me really proud.”

Now having spent the last few months fine-tuning the build and measuring the cars’ power through dyno testing, the team is ready to hit the road.

Lead mechatronics engineer Xander Profaca first joined the project in March 2020 a week before Victoria went into lockdown, and has since graduated with a Bachelor of Mechatronics (Honours).

He said: “The thing that excites me most is using so many cool technologies to construct a real, working car.

“Some days coming into the workshop and seeing the car, it hits me, and I think, ‘I built that’, which gives me such a sense of pride knowing I helped bring the project to life.”

The 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will be held on October 20-27, 2023 and is a 3,000-kilometre race stretching from Darwin to Adelaide.

Young engineers from all over the world compete with their self-designed solar cars over five days. T

Deakin’s entry, codenamed ASCEND, will be competing in the Cruiser division.

The race is in three stages over five days and the Cruiser division is judged on criteria including payload, energy consumption and a subjective element of ‘practicality’.

The cars are regulated, requiring them to be safe for use on the road.

Associate Lecturer Matt Jennings said: “Deakin’s School of Engineering prides itself on our ability to teach students how to solve real-world problems by being innovative and creative, linking fundamental theory to cool new technologies.

“The Cruiser class was created to do similar: bring the innovations from the traditional Challenger class to a car that is much more practical and much closer to use by the general public.”

The car is designed to comfortably seat a driver and passenger as well as having cargo space.

The project kicked off in 2019 and has involved nearly 1,000 Deakin students across multiple schools including Engineering, IT, Communication and Creative Arts and Business and Law.

Principle sponsor of the ASCEND vehicle ACCIONA Energía has partnered with Deakin to demonstrate to Australians how far renewable energy has come.

“We know that renewable energy is able to supply our cities and our businesses with plentiful power and the ASCEND vehicle encapsulates what clean energy is capable of,” said ACCIONA Energia GM of Brand and Marketing Emma Reiners.

ACCIONA Energía and Deakin’s partnership came about as part of the Victorian Government’s Victorian Renewable Energy Target Auction (VRET2) as part of the bid to build the Mortlake South wind farm in western Victoria.

Picture: Deakin University/ASCEND solar car

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