Header picture by Martina Ketelaar
The scrutineering of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) will take place this week. During this scrutineering the officials of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will check if RED E meets all the safety regulations to participate in the race. The scrutineering is always an important moment for Solar Team Twente. When a part of the solar car does not meet one of the regulations, the team always gets a chance to fix the specific part to make sure that their car passes the scrutineering.
None of the teams want to be disqualified because they did not pass the scrutineering. Therefore, it is really important that the technical team makes sure that the car is in perfect condition, so that there won’t be any problems during the scrutineering. Before the start of the scrutineering, all teams must hand in documentation that describes all the technical elements of the solar car. The officials will read this documentation and ask questions about it during the scrutineering.
During the mechanical part of the scrutineering they will take a look at three different aspects; the brakes, the roll cage and the steering system. Firstly, they check if the brakes are balanced. This means that both the right and the left side of the car break with equal force. Secondly, they check if there is a firm roll cage around the driver in case the car crashes and flips. This roll bar should be strong enough to protect the driver. Finally, they check the mechanism that the team uses to steer the solar car. Many teams use different mechanisms, so they have to take a good look to make sure that everything is safe.
The most important part of the electrical scrutineering is the battery pack. They will check if the battery pack is secured safely in the car. The high voltage of the battery pack can be quite dangerous. Because of this, the battery pack is placed in a special box which will be sealed. This means that the officials can check if the box of the battery pack was opened during the race. The officials also check if the horn and the lights of the solar car meet all the regulations.
The officials will not only look at our solar car, but they will also check if all the drivers meet the regulations. If a driver weighs less than 80 kilograms, they have to take extra weight with them so their total weight will be exactly 80 kilograms. During the scrutineering they will measure the weight of each driver, so they can determine if they need any extra weight. There are also specific rules that state that the driver of a solar car should a have large enough sight while driving the solar car. It is for example compulsory to either have a rearview mirror or a rearview camera.
After the dynamical scrutineering there is one part left: the qualification. Each team gets one chance to set a lap time. The team with the fastest lap time will start first during the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. All the other teams will follow with a gap of about 30 seconds. The qualification laps will be driven on Hidden Valley, an old formula 1 track in Darwin. The length of the track is 2.87 km, it has 14 corners and is famous for its high speeds. This is quite challenging for solar cars, because they are usually build to drive very efficiently on a long straight road, the Stuart Highway. However, during the qualification acceleration and top speed are also very important.
During the dynamical scrutineering the will test the maneuverability of the solar car. Each team must perform a figure 8 test within a specific time. They will also test the braking distance of each solar car. Finally, a slalom is performed to see if the maneuverability is high enough.
Safety is a very important part of the scrutineering. They will test if each driver is able to get out of a solar car on its own within 15 seconds. A person should also be able to disable all electrical systems in the car in one go. This is important when the electrical system fails, for example due to a short circuit.