Blue Sky Solar Racing unveils new solar-powered race car

Viridian will compete in race of over 3000 kilometres across Australia

Blue Sky Solar Racing unveils new solar-powered race car

A team of U of T Engineering undergraduate students named Blue Sky Solar Racing unveiled Viridian, the 10th generation of its solar-powered race car, in its first public unveiling event on June 24.

For over 22 years, different compositions of the team designed, built, and raced solar-powered cars, creating a new generation every two years.

This year, Blue Sky Solar Racing completed the design and manufacture of Generation X. The vehicle was showcased to the public for the first time at Myhal Centre Auditorium.

Race car’s manufacture celebrated by keynote speakers

The buzzing audience included team alumni, sponsors, and staff from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Around 200 guests attended in total.

Following an introduction by Managing Director Hubaab K. Hussain, two professors delivered remarks onstage.

Professor Amy Bilton, the Director of the Centre of Global Engineering, discussed her experiences as an alumna of Blue Sky Solar Racing. She reflected on her involvement as the Aerodynamics Team Lead in 2006, and noted that the team puts in an incredible amount of effort each year.

“[The team members] are basically doing more than a full-time job at the same time as they are doing a full load of engineering courses,” she said.

Professor Cristopher Yip, the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, also spoke at the event, and congratulated the team on their successful manufacture of Generation X.

The unveiling of Viridian onstage

In a wave of applause, team members pulled back the curtain to reveal their feat of design.

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Viridian is a boat-shaped solar-powered race car with a length of approximately three metres. The hood of the vehicle is covered with an array of solar panels. A glass hemisphere swells from the middle of the car, serving as the windshield.

In an interview with The Varsity, Hussain said that Viridian can reach a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour according to previous testing.

He said that the team continues to work on testing and characterizing the car ⁠— in addition to getting some much-needed sleep. This will be in preparation for racing Viridian in the international Bridgestone World Solar Challenge this autumn.

Racing 3000 kilometres in Australia

Viridian’s race will be the seventh time that the team’s vehicle will make the cross-continental trip from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia. Travelling north to south of the country, Viridian will race a course of 3000 kilometres.

The competition is set to begin in October. Before then, the team will repeatedly test the car to get as much characterized information about its performance as possible. Details such as its power consumption at certain speeds, as well as how certain environmental conditions affect Viridian’s performance, are especially valuable.

Potential commercial applications

Outside of racing competitions, solar-powered cars have an immense commercial potential. Hussain highlighted Lightyear, a start-up electric car manufacturer in the Netherlands.

The European company released their first solar-powered electric car on the same day as Blue Sky Solar Racing’s unveiling event. Its new car, named Lightyear One, is set to be released on the market soon, with a listed price of €149,000 in the Netherlands, roughly equivalent to 218,400 CAD.

In addition to developing solar-powered race cars, Hussain said that Blue Sky Solar Racing also aims to provide opportunities to enrich the experiences of undergraduates.

“The [goal] of the [Blue Sky Solar Racing],” said Hussain, “is to provide students with an opportunity to grow and develop outside of the classroom, as well as promote sustainable technology.”

Blue skies and solar cars

Student-run Blue Sky Solar Racing team promotes innovation and sustainability

Blue skies and solar cars

Blue Sky Solar Racing has quickly established itself as one of U of T’s leading design teams. Invested in the design, construction, and racing of solar-powered cars, the club is an incubator for innovation. It has attracted more than 100 members and finished 11th out of 35 teams at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in October 2017 with its Polaris car.

The Varsity had a chance to speak with Hubaab Hussain, Managing Director at Blue Sky, about how the team goes from the blueprint to a fully functional, solar-powered car. “Our club takes pride in the ability to not only design, but also build the car by ourselves. We see through the entire build of the car from it’s conceptual design to the time it is on wheels,” said Hussain.

An insider’s look into operations and funding

The club’s annual routine can be segmented into six phases: the learning period, conceptual design, detailed design, building, testing, and racing.

Prior to the construction period, club members identify the particular design and features of the car they hope to build. From there, the team routinely meets every week to review potential ideas for a car design that follows this initial guideline.

According to Hussain, all members are invited to critically evaluate the ongoing design proposals for feasibility and whether one excels in key measures like solar collector performance or total mass. The materials required to build the car, often metal and carbon fibre, are acquired from external vendors.

Hussain explained that assembling the parts to form a fully functional solar-powered vehicle is time-consuming: initial assembly commences in September and extends to the next academic year, with completion expected in June.

Once the car is complete, it is tested extensively in open spaces such as race tracks, air strips, and private lots. Because safety is critically important to the club, there is an active board of certified engineers who examine the car before it’s tested.

Despite extensive planning, the club still faces setbacks. “The most challenging component is sticking to a timeline. A majority of our team members are full time engineering students. During the semester many of the leaders of the team spend a considerable amount of time on this project while managing school as well,” explained Hussain.

In recognition of the club’s continuous accomplishments, Blue Sky Solar Racing receives significant financial support from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and from numerous student bodies and external sponsors. Summed up, the club receives over $300,000 to for the designing and manufacturing of its cars.

Outlook and opportunities

The club’s underlying value of giving students the opportunity to apply their skills outside the classroom is what has driven the team to succeed.

Blue Sky Solar Racing is always on the lookout for exceptional students, irrespective of their stream, to join the engineering, financial, business, IT, or media teams. For interested students, Hussain said to email him or keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities on the Career Learning Network.

“The experience team members get at Blue Sky is incomparable to what they can get elsewhere” said Hussain.