Durham University students continuing to shine with Bridgestone

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Published on
May 8, 2024

They were the first UK team to complete the 3,000km Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in six days and now, Durham University students are focused on a new goal, featuring another futuristic vehicle for a 24-hour endurance race in Belgium.

The 21-strong group could be forgiven having a well-earned break after navigating the gruelling challenge in Australia to finish 11th out of 38 teams overall, but they’re already putting the finishing touches to a completely separate vehicle called ‘Ortus-T’, who will take to the track in the iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) an event starting on 21stSeptember 2024..

The race, at Circuit Zolder in Belgium, allows solar cars to show their full potential with low power consumption and impressive aerodynamic design over a full day. During the challenge, each team can only make a maximum of two stops for charging during the 24 hour event.

Durham University students’ 4x2m machine is designed with 4m2 silicon solar panels, with a carbon fibre and Kevlar chassis. It will run on specially designed Bridgestone Enliten tyres, which will help the vehicle to travel for longer between charges thanks to their superior rolling resistance qualities.

Members of the Durham University team visited Bridgestone’s Warwick headquarters recently to to tell the Bridgestone UK Team all about their Australian adventure in October 2023, before revealing their plans for the iESC in September. They also exclusively announced that they will give their 2023 car an outing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July this year in a UK-first, where they will embark on a hill climb.

Vedika Bedi - Durham University World Solar Challenge

Vedika Bedi, Durham University Solar Car Team Principal, said it meant a lot to meet so many Bridgestone colleagues and look back on some of their experiences from Darwin to Adelaide - a journey the equivalent of 28,000 football pitches.

She said: “We’re so proud of our achievements in Australia, but we are already looking forward to the next challenge! We have parked-up our 2023 car (DUSC2023) and are back in the laboratory with a completely different track vehicle, called Ortus-T.

“Ortus has four wheels, rather than the three-wheel catamaran DUSC2023 design, and it’s a tighter squeeze to get behind the wheel, as it’s designed for a 5ft 5in driver, rather than a 6ft 4in person when we were in Australia.

“The iESC is going to present a new set of challenges, an obvious one being that there won’t be as much sun in Belgium, but we’ve incorporated 20kg batteries which will power the car at cruising speed for four hours and we’re confident of another good result.

“We’ve carried out some track tests recently and have more in the pipeline which will allow us to train the drivers and the strategy team. Driving around track corners at speed will be a new experience, as our Australian adventure was along relatively straight roads.

“Our goal is to finish in the top 10 and maintain the reputation that we have built for ourselves following our success last year.”

Ortus-T will hit speeds of up to 60kph and the Durham University team will again be relying on Bridgestone’s custom made 2023  World Solar Challenge tyres which include Bridgestone’s Enliten technology. The proportion of recycled resources and renewable resources in the tyres will remain at 63%. The recycled material will comprise recycled organic fiber, recovered carbon black, recycled rubber chemical, recycled oil, and reinforcement material using recycled steel.

Vedika added: “Bridgestone’s tyres are going to be a key component of the car. In Australia, the tyres incorporating Enliten technology, offered us incredible levels of durability and allowed us to extract more range in the process, which we’ll be needing to achieve again when we take to the track in Belgium.”

Andrea Manenti, Vice President Bridgestone North Region said: "The Durham University team continue to astound us with their levels of innovation. As they said to us when they visited our Warwick offices, they are demonstrating what is possible for future mobility through leading-edge technology.

“To see their 2023 car first-hand was incredible. It’s a feat of engineering and it means a great deal to know that they have covered so many miles in such a sustainable way on our tyres featuring Enliten technology tyres. They completed the World Solar Challenge in what was the equivalent of a gallon of diesel, which is a remarkable effort.

“We now wish them well in their Belgium track challenge and will look forward to seeing them again at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. We are all right behind them!”

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge showcases the values of the Bridgestone E8 Commitment, which outlines Bridgestone’s corporate commitment to the realisation of a carbon neutral mobility society (Energy). The car drove on the power equivalent to that of boiling a kettle (Efficiency) and inspired excitement and spread joy to the world of mobility (Emotion).

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