CalSol races across Australia in solar car challenge

Facing competition from teams around the globe, a solar vehicle crafted by UC Berkeley students has begun its transcontinental race across Australia in the World Solar Challenge.

The vehicle, Impulse, was engineered by the campus solar team CalSol and started off in 13th place, according to the team’s blog. The team is tasked with completing a roughly 1,800 mile journey from Darwin to Adelaide.

The race began Sunday, but time differences put it about a day ahead of California time. Team members have been in Australia since Sept. 27 for preparation and testing leading up to the start of the race.

According to the blog, the team experienced some turbulence on the first day when it noticed that the batteries were failing to charge. Though the team initially hoped the problem could be solved on the road, it was eventually forced to pull over 45 kilometers outside Darwin in order to fix the vehicle, the blog states.

The team again faced issues on the second day of the race. After a quick start in the morning, the team was confronted with two problems: one with the solar array and another with the car’s batteries, according to the blog.

The solar array suffered a broken connector – which caused the current from the array to drop to about a quarter of a level from normal conditions – while one of the battery cells was severely undercharged. Though the team was able to solve the problems, a brush fire further along the race held up CalSol as well as other leading teams, the blog states.

J.D. Morris is the lead environment reporter.