With the solar powered car ‘Punch II’, the team has won the Carrera Solar Atacama race in Chile. The team delivered a consistently strong performance over the five race days, driving at the maximum speed limit of 100km/hour for large parts of the route. The race is believed to be the most extreme Solar Challenge in the world, covering 2577 km in extreme desert weather conditions and includes mountain altitudes of up to 3430 meters.
Carrera Solar Atacama
The ‘Carrera Solar Atacama’ is a competition for solar powered vehicles taking place every two years in Chile, South-America. It is considered the most challenging in the world in terms of terrain, as teams need to cover a 2577km course crossing the Atacama Desert, west of the Andes Mountains. This desert is characterized by extreme weather conditions, levels of solar irradiance higher than anywhere else in the world, and a lack of rainfall which makes it the driest non-polar region on earth. The arduous terrain is also used by NASA for testing Mars Rovers and other instruments for missions to the Red Planet.
The race ran from the Chilean capital Santiago to the town of Arica in the north of the country. Teams had to face altitude as well, climbing up to 3430 meters near San Pedro De Atacama before descending back to sea level at the finish line.
Punch II – A 100% Solar – Electric Powered Vehicle
The solar powered car was designed by a team of students from KU Leuven in Belgium, along with technical support from Punch Powertrain and a network of more than 150 companies. The drive system is fully electric, while the incoming energy is provided by solar cells that are integrated into the vehicle body. A special drive motor was implemented to provide high torque for mountain sections as well as high efficiency while driving on a flat road.
The solar car completed the course in five days and was able to sustain speeds of 100km per hour in large parts of the race, the speed limit for those sections.
“It was a huge challenge but we were prepared and everything went well” says Jasper Schrijvers, pilot of the car. “It is indeed the most extreme solar car race in the world due to its terrain and weather conditions.”
First gold medal
“It’s the first time that our team won the gold medal” says Adrian Baiets, team manager. “The cooperation with technical partners, such as Punch Powertrain, allowed us to develop an innovative vehicle which is among the best in the world. The vehicle was reliable throughout the race and the team showed its professionalism. This led to a dominant performance and a fantastic result. “
“We are proud to be the main partner on this project” says Saphir Faid, R&D manager at Punch Powertrain. “Projects like this stimulate talent in engineering and push the boundaries of technology further and further. Completing a challenging course through deserts and mountains with a vehicle that is only powered by the sun shows what is possible with highly efficient electric propulsion. “
The team is already working on the next generation of solar vehicle technology. Twenty new engineering students have been recruited and are working to develop an even better solar powered vehicle. In October 2019 they will be at the starting line of the World Solar Challenge in Australia.