TU Delft’s number one dream team, the Nuon Solar Team, presented the smartest solar car in the world which it will run in the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa. We made a video about the team’s workplace and asked its Partnerships and PR, Pauline Overes, how it all began.
How did you manage to make the smartest solar car in the world?
“Nuna has an intelligent cruise control that consists of three features. One, a radar sees obstacles that, two, the onboard computer responds to. We are trying the car out in the Beekse Bergen zoo to see if it the radar and computer respond when an animal crosses the road. Its third feature is that it is extremely efficient going up and down hills – and there are a lot of hills in South Africa.”
How did the Nuon Solar Race team start?
“In 1999, a few students watched the movie Race the Sun where high school kids built a car for the World Solar Challenge. The students were inspired by the movie and decided to join the race which was normally raced by companies wanting to show off their solar panels and other car parts. The students planned their trip to Australia, with the idea that “if we can’t make it to the race, we can go surfing” at the back of their minds.”
“They asked astronaut Wubbo Ockels, who was working for TU Delft at the time, to help them. Ockels said, “only if we win”. So in the basement of the 3mE building, they took two years to build the first Nuna. In 2001, they were the first student team ever and won! After that, a lot of other student teams were encouraged to join the race and now it’s mostly a student race, with teams from all over the world: USA, Japan, Belgium and, of course, Delft.”
Why is your car the Nuna 9S, and not the Nuna 10?
“We do not build a new car every year as it takes so much time. The exterior carbon alone takes six people three months to build. So a few years ago, we thought up the ‘S’ years. The race is in Australia in the uneven years and in South Africa in the even years. We race a new car in Australia in the uneven years and improve it in the even years. This year we are improving the Nuna 9 and are concentrating on its interior: new electronics and software. We are not using the Nuna 9S in Australia in 2019 because they’ll have new rules for the race and at sometimes improvements in aerodynamics are necessary.”
What are you going to do from now until the race starts?
“We will fly to South Africa in August. A lot of old team members have been helping us over the last few weeks. The Nuna will go in a huge flight case with all the tools we will need over there. The race will start on 22 September. Before that, we’ll have time to fix the last things. In South Africa, the climate is different and that can affect parts of the car. We are also going to drive the complete route so we know what to expect.”