Stella Vie. Photo | Bart van Overbeeke

Solar Team to Belgium for European championship

Solar car Stella Vie is taking part over the weekend of September 21-23 in the European Solar Challenge in Belgium, a 24-hour race at the Zolder circuit. This is the first time that Solar Team Eindhoven (STE) has competed in this European event, affiliated with the Australian World Solar Challenge, which the team has already won three times.

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photo Bart van Overbeeke

According to Kyron Pijpers, a member of Solar Team 2017, a delegation of at least twenty will be going to Belgium, including representatives of every generation of STE: from the teams in 2013, 2015, 2017 and Solar Team 2019 that is being launched this week. The students are taking part with Stella Vie, the car that last year won the World Solar Challenge. “Two years ago Stella Lux was not available when the European Solar Challenge was held, which is why this is the first time that we are participating in Belgium.”

The European Solar Challenge is being held at the Zolder circuit, where the cars have 24 hours to cover as much distance as possible, explains Pijpers. “This result counts for half of the final score. In addition, the car is assessed for technical innovation, among other things, and there are points to be collected for the fastest circuit and how fast you complete the chicane, a section of the circuit with tight bends.” According to the student of Mechanical Engineering, the cars must be recharged at least twice an hour, although that likely won't be necessary if the weather is sunny. “But then you would have to drive much more slowly, and I think that the organizers would rather see a faster race.”

Open championship

Although the winner is entitled to call themselves ‘European champion’, the European Solar Challenge is an open championship, with participants coming from Colombia, the United States, India and Egypt. “In the US there is now also a similar competition,” tells Pijpers. “Competitions of this kind are a great chance to show what your car can do.”

For the team it is great to take part in an event so close to home, so that lots of supporters can come along to watch. And the location offers another benefit, thinks Pijpers. “People often think that solar cars ride well in a sunny country like Australia, but they are skeptical whether the technology also works in the Netherlands. It's nice to have the chance to demonstrate that it's feasible here too.”

According to Pijpers, in Belgium Stella Vie again has a good chance of proving itself the best of the cruisers – the category for solar-powered family cars in which Solar Team Eindhoven also competes in the biennial World Solar Challenge right across Australia. There are 22 participants in total - roughly half of them in the cruiser class, he estimates. Admittedly, a race track is completely different from the endless straight roads through the outback. “So next week we want to practice on a circuit like this one, to establish the best speed we should drive at in the competition.”

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