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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Embracing the sun

Reading Time: 4 minutes

On the Indian links at this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Aurum.Indian Link

Driving 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide would challenge anyone making the trip. But to do it without a drop of petrol, are you kidding me?
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a car race with a difference, is an event that seeks out new – and sustainable – frontiers in the transport scene.
This year 46 teams from 25 countries participated.
A major purpose of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is to advance the exploration and development of automotive technology in the use of solar power. This has been evidenced as the winner’s average speed since 1987, when the event began, has risen from 67kph to 92kph today, achieved by the winning car Nuna8 from the Nuon Solar Team based in Holland.
The 4th placed car was the Aurum from the University of Michigan, USA. Aurum Project Manager Pavan Naik, at the young age of 21, is a veteran of solar-powered car racing, having been involved in the 2013 race in Adelaide, followed by races in the US and Abu Dhabi.

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.Indian Link
Pavan Naik

Describing this year’s race he said, “The final positions were down to the last 30 minutes of the entire race.”
Majoring in Industrial Engineering, Pavan has a passionate interest in the success of Aurum for himself and his team.
It was interesting to hear Pavan say, “I had an interest in engineering but it wasn’t until my involvement with solar cars that I really understood what engineering was all about. You can learn it in class but it’s not the same.”
As the team statement says ‘Our emphasis with Aurum was on speed, reliability and safety…it was designed to be the fastest solar car’.
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Aurum.Indian Link
The sleek Aurum is an entirely student run project. The team comprises of engineering students from the mechanical, electrical, aero-dynamic and strategy disciplines with support from operations and business divisions. With an enthusiastic race crew of 17, and drivers taking turns at the wheel, there was just one objective in mind: to get this 140kg baby to the number one spot.
Interestingly, there was a supporters group that had come all the way from the USA for the finish in Adelaide. There were the “Michigan Moms” including Julie and Tracy, mother and aunt, respectively, of the lead mechanical engineer, Joshua. Others included Ajit Naik, father of Pavan.
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.Indian Link
Pavan Naik with father Ajit

Ajit
Talking to Ajit gave an insight into the feelings of a parent of a participant in the race. Ajit told Indian Link, “Getting involved in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge project has changed a lot of the perspective in Pavan. He has been really involved for the last two years. When his friends would be going to ball games he would be busy working on the project.”
This was just an example of the dedication and passion shown by all taking part in the solar challenge.
When asked if batteries were an issue for solar vehicles, Pavan replied, “No, the main issue is energy management, making sure your strategy is consistent and your vehicle reliable.”
At the end of the race, Pavan said, “I am proud of my team; we’ll be back in 2017 for a better result.”
On an unfortunate note, the RVCE Solar Car Team from Bangalore worked very hard to bring their car to the race but technical problems prevented their start. Hopefully they’ll be back next time too.
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge celebrations.Indian Link
After such a gruelling race it was not surprising that thewere off the scale. Loud cheering and chanting continued as the winning cars rolled into the finish enclosure. Before we knew it, the Aurum team were running down Victoria Square to continue a tradition, to jump into the Three Rivers Fountain as the sparkling wine fizzed into the sky. Later, a parade of cars in the city, an Awards ceremony followed by a party brought this event to a fitting conclusion.

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Avi Chandiok
Mountain-fit 70 year old whose greatest achievement is trekking to Everest Base Camp.

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