The new solar car has to satisfy a large amount of requirements, which are checked during the scrutineering (examination of all solar cars before the race). There are some very important rules that define large parts of the design.
The most important regulation changes in 2017 are:
- Smaller maximum area of solar panel, so less solar cells.
- Mirror and lens areas are subtracted of the total allowed of solar cell area.
- During control stops only the driver is allowed to set the car up for charging and only the driver is allowed to prepare for take-off.
- The total allowed dimensions of the car are bigger.
The maximum allowed area of solar cells changes per cell type. Teams must choose between 2.64 m2 gallium arsenide solar cells (cells used in the space industry, with a very high efficiency), 4 m2 silicon solar cells (a cheaper type of solar cell with a lower efficiency, commonly found on roofs) or 3.56 m2 thin film gallium arsenide (sort of a middle road between the other two).
Not only does the car have to meet certain requirements, teams themselves must also abide to the rules. For example, the race takes place during daylight hours (8:00-17:00). When it’s time to stop, the team has to set up camp at that precise location. This can mean that you have to camp in the middle of the Australian Outback. Along the route there are also several mandatory stops. At these so-called ‘control stops’, a driver swap can be made, the car can charge and there’s often the possibility to talk with the press.
Finally, there are some regulations regarding the drivers. Most of these regulations have the purpose of ensuring their own safety and preventing unfair advantages. For example, the minimum weight of the drivers is 80 kilograms. If the driver is too light, an extra load is added to the car. The driver’s position is also regulated, to ensure that the solar cars keep some similarities with a conventional car and of course provide better visibility for the driver.