Manila, Philippines – A Philippine-made car is competing in one of the most revolutionary racing events in the world… and also among the quietest.
The Sikat II solar car developed by De La Salle University engineering students and faculty will be racing in the 3,000-kilometer 11th World Solar Challenge (WSC) in Australia starting Sunday.
The biannual race draws innovators from all over the globe to show what long-distance transport can be in an oil-depleted future. It also promises to be an adventure for the racing teams, with camping in the desert and the occasional kangaroo darting onto the race route, which stretches from Darwin in Australia’s northern tip to Adelaide on the country’s southern coast.
Unlike the roar of conventional internal combustion engines that run on fossil fuels, electric cars powered by solar energy like the Sikat II simply hum even at its top speed of 110 kilometers per hour.
The Sikat II is also a statement of solar energy’s state of the art in the Philippines, where university researchers are harnessing the cutting-edge advantages of solar cells made locally. The country is a growing exporter of solar panels and other technologies.
The Philippines’ solar car and the team running it, Team Solar Philippines, are competing against vehicles backed by some of the world’s leading universities.
Tokai University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Cambridge University, University of Toronto are among the top-notch institutions registered in the race.
When the country joined the race for the first time in 2007, it placed 12th in a field of 40. Tokai University’s “Tokai Challenger“ won the race in 2009.
DLSU professor and Sikat II team leader Jose Antonio “Jack“ Catalan told GMA News Online via phone interview that their solar car passed the pre-race “dynamic tests“ to determine vehicle stability and road-worthiness.
Those tests covered steering, braking and performance. A “hot lap“ on the track of the Hidden Valley Motorsport Complex near Darwin in northern Australia followed the dynamic scrutiny to determine the starting position on Sunday.
Catalan said the team will strive to achieve optimum energy efficiency so that Sikat II’s solar cells will have enough power to last until the end of the race.
ENERGY CHALLENGE The race has another wrinkle.
The solar cars are only allowed five kilowatt-hours maximum of stored energy in their batteries.
“Having demanded the world’s most efficient electric vehicles to travel the route we make things more difficult by adding the concept of `man vs. the elements’ by regulating the stored energy component to a nominal 10% of that required to complete the journey,“ WSC event director Chris Selwood said.
“Each team will travel as far as it can each day and camp in the desert each night. The exact progress is of course subject to the intensity of the sun, the condition of the road and whether there is any prospect of cloud,“ Selwood added. RACE TIMETABLE Sikat II will be the 32nd solar car to leave the Darwin state square, where the competing vehicles will be flagged off at 8:30 a.m. local time (10 a.m. Manila time).
From Darwin in the north, the solar cars will travel south and are expected to reach the finish line in Adelaide by late Wednesday afternoon.
Organizers said the competing teams must observe local traffic rules, including the speed limits, and non-Australians must have their international drivers’ licenses with them.
“Finish of Timing is a point established outside of the Adelaide urban area. Effectively this will determine the winner, however the solar car must still proceed under its own power to the ceremonial finish line in Victoria Square, the center of Adelaide,“ organizers of the World Solar Challenge also said.