British team set to shine at World Solar Challenge 2013

CUER's Resolution and Keno Mario-Ghae, Team Manager, at Girton College, Cambridge.

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 5th July 2013.

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 drivetrain, 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 rulebook 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

CUER's Resolution at Girton College, Cambridge

CUER's Resolution at Girton College, Cambridge.

©2015 Holdsworth Associates