The reigning solar racing world champions hope to use their newest solar vehicle to win the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge once again in Australia in October. This will be a major challenge because the competition gets tougher every year. Luckily the Dutch team has plenty of help: not least from primary school pupils.
Over the next few months, the new Nuon Solar Team will work in total secrecy on the design of a solar vehicle with optimum aerodynamics at the Polymer Science Park in Zwolle. The students from Delft University of Technology chose Zwolle because one of the partners – Aliancys – is based next to the Polymer Science Park. Amongst other things, Aliancys supplies the high-quality resins and carbon fibres that are used in Nuna's body. In the middle of March, the Mayor of Zwolle, Henk Jan Meijer, helped the Nuon Solar Team get the construction process on the road by symbolically cutting through the first piece of carbon fibre.
One big team
The Nuon solar team is made up of new students each year. Consequently, the members of this new team have never built a solar vehicle before.
"But luckily we're not on our own," says team leader Sander Koot. "We can use the knowledge and experience of former team members who are still actively involved in the project. We also get a lot of help from partners and sponsors, who share their facilities, knowledge and experience with us. So the Nuon Solar Team actually includes far more than just the sixteen team members: together we form one big team."
Design competition for children
This year, children can help the Nuon Solar Team too, by producing a design to go on the outside of Nuna9. In Zwolle, a group of primary school children marked the start of the competition by decorating a life-size floor plan of Nuna in their own special way during the team presentation.
"We want our vehicle to let the world know that we are the winning Dutch team, and we are asking children to give us inspiration for this," says driver Sharon van Luik. "All Dutch primary schools can download a Nuna design template from our website and share their design with us. The class that inspires us the most will win an exclusive tour of the top-secret Nuna workshop."
To win again in Australia will not be easy for the Nuon Solar Team: the opposition gets stronger year on year. In the latest race in 2015, the winner was only 8 minutes ahead of the team that came second. So, if it is to keep the competition at bay, the new team will have to work extremely hard over the next few months. And, in addition, this year Nuna's solar panel must be no more than four square metres, which means that the surface area used to collect the solar power is one and a half times smaller than at the last race.
Once again favourite for winning
As many times winner and reigning world champion, the Nuon Solar Team is the favourite to win the title in Australia. The race organisers are challenging teams from all over the world to beat the Dutch under the motto: 'Take on the Dutch'. For the students from Delft University of Technology, this challenge is an additional incentive to win the world title for the Netherlands once again.