The Nuon Solar Team has encountered a major setback for this year’s World Solar Challenge: the handmade battery − critical for powering the solar car in the 3,000 km race across Australia− is stuck in Singapore.
Attempts to get the battery to Australia are proving unsuccessful. Recent accidents involving batteries in telephones mean that airlines are hesitant to permit non-standard batteries on board aircraft. This applies even when the battery is uncharged (as is the case here). As such, the team members from Delft have already started to work on a plan B: building a new battery on site.
The delay involving the battery is a major problem. Without a battery, the Nuon Solar Team will be unable to participate in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, set to take place on 8 October. The team members are currently doing everything they can to find a way to get the battery from Singapore to Darwin.
Alongside these efforts, the team has put an emergency plan into action and has now ordered customised battery parts from Japan. The plan is to attempt to build a new battery on site in Australia. With less than a month to go, the heat is well and truly on for the team from Delft.
"Although we are putting all of our effort into two possible solutions, both of them come with risks," says team leader Sander Koot. "We are currently looking for a route that will allow us to bring the battery from Singapore to Darwin. It might work, but this alternative route will not be quick by any means. The battery might even become stranded in other locations." The team has already made a huge effort to get the battery to Singapore, ultimately having to settle on shipping it via Moscow. "One possible route is to send it over land to Kuala Lumpur, then via air freight to Sydney, and finally by road to Darwin. Even if everything goes to plan, it's going to be touch and go because we have to perform a range of tests after it arrives."
The second option, to build a new battery, also takes time. But the Nuon Solar Team are doing everything to be able to start the race in October.
"We are now arranging for the parts for a new battery to be shipped to Darwin from Japan, so that we can build a new battery here. This is a time-consuming process too. Still, if we have to do it, we'll do it. Not being on the start line is simply not an option for us," asserts Sander. "It is heartening to see that everybody is committed to helping solve this problem, especially our main sponsor and the university."
Setbacks are nothing new for the Nuon Solar Team. During the 2013 World Solar Challenge, major problems with the wheel suspension almost prevented the team from making it to the start line. These issues were only resolved the week before the race thanks to a combination of collective elbow grease and working through the nights. The Nuna7 ended up winning the race. The situation in 2009 was even more dramatic: the Nuna5 crashed during a test drive and had to be virtually rebuilt in a week − including an improvised nose made of wood. The Nuna5 came second behind the Tokai from Japan; on paper it was a disappointment, but in reality it was probably the most fantastic result in the team's history.