The Engineering Discipline of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) is celebrating its best-ever result in the World Solar Challenge with the team’s self-developed solar-powered car, SOPHIE 6s. Having successfully traversed 3,000 km across the desert and wilderness of Australia, the IVE team finished in third place in the highly demanding and challenging Cruiser Class. They completed the race with flying colours by defeating a pool of strong contestants from globally-reputed institutions like the University of Cambridge in the UK and University of California, Berkeley in the USA.
Out of the 14 Cruiser Class teams, only three completed the Challenge within the time frame, including the IVE Engineering Solar Car Team, which is a tribute to the team’s professional standards and underlines the difficulty of the competition. The solar-powered car race was held in Australia in late 2019, attracting some 40 teams all over the world including Australia, Germany, the UK, the USA and China. Participating teams were required to drive from north to south through the Australian Outback in six days, during which they had to accommodate themselves to the new rules of the competition and charge their solar cars at designated timeslots and stops, presenting a big challenge to their cars’ battery performance and energy management strategy.
The Cruiser Class places an emphasis on the practicality of the solar cars as vehicles to be adopted in the new generation of sustainable development. The cars are required to complete the full race distance within a set time frame. In this regard, racing strategies and energy efficiency are just as important as stylish looks. This is the fourth time the IVE Engineering Solar Car Team has entered the World Solar Challenge race. Building on past experiences and the collaborative research outcomes of the IVE Engineering Discipline and the industry, they have greatly enhanced the energy efficiency of SOPHIE 6s and were able to take home their best result since debut.
The IVE Engineering Solar Car Team was formed in 2009. The current SOPHIE 6s is the seventh-generation solar-powered car developed by the team. It deploys a brand-new electric motor system co-developed by the team and a local motor development company. The system employs the latest techniques to integrate braking system components such as the discs and calipers with the motor system, effectively reducing the motor’s weight by 20%. This is a significant breakthrough in style, performance and energy efficiency of the car as compared with its predecessors.
During the six days of intensive competition, team members worked wholeheartedly with one another on tasks like driving on the desert highway, charging the solar car and strategising to raise the speed. Members slept inside camps in the wilderness and worked frantically on checks and repairs. Currently serving as a Graduate Trainee in CLP Power, the IVE graduate of Higher Diploma in Electrical Engineering, Samson LAU Ngai-hung, was a member of the electrical team, responsible for designing the electrical system and coding the energy management programme. This is the third time Samson has taken part in the competition, hence he is already an experienced team member. He recalled one unforgettable day when the photovoltaic panels malfunctioned and failed to collect sufficient solar energy. He and other team members immediately calculated the distance to the next checkpoint and the energy required in between, then worked throughout the night to fix the problem, and finally made it. Truly a group with strong team spirit, braving all odds. Samson noted that the electrical engineering know-how he has accumulated working with the SOPHIE team has enriched his professional knowledge, thus become more competent in his present job.
The World Solar Challenge is a biennial race that brings together solar cars of tertiary educational institutes and enterprises across the globe to showcase technical excellence. Top-notch engineering students from around the world compete for the championship, including teams from globally-reputed education institutions like the University of Cambridge in the UK, Stanford University in the USA and Tokai University in Japan. To watch videos of the competition, please visit https://youtu.be/vo1d2F6V_4Q.
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