Rain scuppers Solar Team Eindhoven in Belgium

At the World Solar Challenge in Australia they won first place convincingly three years running. But for Solar Team Eindhoven things clearly weren't going their way at last weekend's European Solar Challenge (ESC) in Belgium. Owing to technical problems brought on by the rain, the team finished last in their category.

photo Solar Team Eindhoven

With high expectations, representatives of three generations of Solar Team Eindhoven travelled to Zolder last week - ready for action; among other things to prove that solar cars can perform just as well outside sunny Australia, as Kyron Pijpers of the 2017 team told Cursor. The main component of the event is a 24-hour race lasting from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, which counts for 50 percent of the total score. Pijpers rated Stella Vie as having a good chance to prove itself the best of its type, here in Belgium as it has elsewhere (despite the extra challenges posed by the - occasionally tight-cornered - racing circuit, especially for cruisers).

But reality proved a tougher nut to crack, tells Marije Sesink (public relations manager of the new Solar Team Eindhoven) the day after the ESC. Even while preparations and testing were still underway, the first rains appeared  - and with them the first signs of a technical setback. “We thought it could be fixed in time and worked hard to achieve that, but unfortunately the problem was never resolved.”


Stella Vie did manage to complete the 24-hour race, however, and in total was able to do 39 laps. But the solar car had to be removed from the track several times for lengthy periods to recover. Sesink speaks of a "complex technical problem" due to rainwater that had got into the car, causing a certain part of the engines to fail repeatedly. On each occasion, the internal security system would then cause the car to switch off.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Stella Vie has got caught out in the rain; in Australia in 2017 she even “survived a couple of heavy downpours,” according to Sesink. “They presented no problem at all. But on this occasion our engineers don't yet know why exactly things went wrong”.

Although the final ranking was disappointing, Sesink looks back with a sense of satisfaction on the weekend, which also formed part of the handover by the old team to the new one. “People in the previous teams gave us a thorough tour and that taught us a lot.” But above all, she feels, the team really showed its perseverance at the Zolder circuit, “everyone worked really hard to get Stella Vie going each time and back on the track, even during the night.”

Moreover, in Belgium the team did score the maximum number of points for their presentation on the technical innovation involved in Stella Vie. And, having completed a fast lap when it was dry, the Eindhoven solar car came third in the fastest lap ranking.

Brainstorming phase

The lessons learned in Zolder will certainly be taken into account in the design and construction of Solar Team Eindhoven’s new car, tells Sesink: “Right now we are mainly in the brainstorming phase and now and again we're working out some ideas.” She expects the successor to Stella Vie to be ready for presentation in about July 2019.

The new team that has just started comprises 26 TU/e students, a few more than last year.

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