Lightning-fast solar car from Groningen

A team of students from Groningen is building race cars powered by solar energy. Under the name Top Dutch Solar Racing, they participated in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a race across Australia, for the first time in 2019. The car’s aerodynamics were tested on the national supercomputer.

Team of students from mbo, hbo and wo

The Top Dutch Solar Racing team consists of students from the mbo, hbo and wo: from Hanzehogeschool, Friesland College, Noorderpoort and the University of Groningen. Each does what he or she is strongest at: organization, engineering, electronics or communications. “That collaboration in such a diverse team went harshly,” says Eline Hesta, a communications student at Hanze University and responsible for communications within the 2019 race team. “When you put such different people together, you can complement each other in a very nice way.”

Design testing before building

The team worked under time constraints and on a limited budget. Building and testing all kinds of different models of cars is then, of course, not possible. That’s where the supercomputer enters the scene. By simulating the car’s aerodynamics in the computer, you can improve your design before you actually build the model.

The more detailed and realistic your simulation model, the more computing power and memory you need. Jussi Vuopionpera, responsible for operations & sponsorships at the Top Dutch Solar Racing team 2019 and bioinformatics student at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences: “To perform the calculations, we used a hundred CPUs, central processing units, on the supercomputer. As a result, a simulation took only a few hours on average. We couldn’t do such simulations on an ordinary PC because it simply doesn’t have enough memory.”

Simulating multiple scenarios

“We ran simulations on the national supercomputer for about a month. The supercomputer allowed us to simulate multiple scenarios and thus optimize the design of the car. We were also able to examine the effects of driving with crosswinds at different angles.”

“The knowledge we have gained will be passed on to a new team so that other students can also benefit,” Vuopionpera said. Hesta adds. “In any case, we hope we have shown that in the Northern Netherlands the environment is also good for doing these kinds of cool engineering projects. We basically started from nothing, but by working together we’ve brought this down.”

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