Racing the sun and pushing the boundaries of what is technologically feasible best describes the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a biennial event in the sunny country of Australia. Teams from different countries and universities build a solar car that is fit to drive the adventure: 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide through the heart of the Outback.
To be crowned World Champion, your car and team have to persevere through the harsh conditions in the desert, show great team spirit, but most importantly: Build an incredibly efficient car.
The first-ever solar racing event was held back in 1985 in Switzerland, the “Tour de Sol.” Self-built vehicles crossed the Swiss landscape, while only gaining power from the solar cells mounted on top of the cars.
Over the next few years, more challenges kept popping up, such as the World Solar Challenge in Australia. In 1987, the first event as we know it today was held down under. In 1990, it was a Swiss solar car, the “Spirit of Biel,” from the Biel University of Applied Sciences that won the event!
Inspired by such a rich tradition of solar racing, a small group of students decided to found the first-ever team from ETH Zurich and compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2023 under the name “aCentauri Solar Racing.”
In the span of only one year, we designed, manufactured, and assembled a highly customized car, built for the challenges of the race: “Aletsch.” The aerodynamics of “Aletsch” are optimized to have as little air resistance as a side mirror on a road car; the electric drive system boasts a high efficiency of more than 95%, and the weight is as little as 290 kg with the driver. With the battery capacity of a Tesla, we could drive from Zurich to New York!
Before the race, the now forty-headstrong association sent a delegation of twenty-five people to Australia to race our solar car.
Facing fierce competition from highly experienced teams from universities all over the world, we managed to be one of the only 12 teams finishing the race. Starting along with 28 teams in Darwin, we raced down Stuart Highway through the picturesque landscape of Australia. On the way, we had to fix efficiency problems, change blown tires, and make risky strategy calls to keep up with the race pace. Coming to the finish line in Adelaide was a dream come true for the whole team. Finishing in an impressive 49 hours and 3 minutes, we managed to put Switzerland and ETH Zurich back on the map of solar racing.
But our journey just started; we look forward to competing in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2025 and are eager to push the boundaries of sustainable mobility and innovation.