To celebrate the Year to Go mark in the countdown to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, we sat down with Event Director Chris Selwood AM to answer questions from our community about solar technology, the Challenge and more.
It was in insightful discussion, with many people in our community curious about the real-world application of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
On whether there will be a more open category - out of the confines of the currenct classes - to encourage out of the box ideas...
While Chris told us he loves out of the box ideas when it comes to solar cars, he explained that in past Challenges they have explored categories like this.
However, Chris explained that due to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge being on a public highway, we need to considerate of the risks assosciated and as such, have regulations in place for the vehicles.
"The bottom line is, it's a design competition... We have an open philosphy but we know what needs to be achieved" said Chris.
On introducing a class for fully type approved vehicles...
It's clear amongst our community that there is strong interest for information surrounding the real-world application of solar cars from the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
With electric cars common place now, and solar technology a large part of many countries' power infrastructure, the question remains of when this will translate to road vehicles.
Chris explained that it can be done, but it's a matter of whether teams want to do it. There also comes the matter of the rigour of assessing these vehicles from a design perspective, and how they are scored.
"We get into the sorts of issues where people are taking off windscreen wipers to imrpove aerodynamics" said Chris.
A similar class has been applied in the 2009 and 2011 challenges, but it was felt that the introduction of commercial influence changed the nature of the challenge, so this has been evolved to the Cruiser Class.
However, Chris acknowledged that is is crucial to question how mankind is going to move around the face of the planet without polluting, and without using precious resources.
On adding scoring for efficiency and lower numbers of support vehicles from teams...
Prompted by this question, Chris recalled a conversation with an Astronaut from the European Space Agency, who likened preparations for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge to preparations for a space mission.
The vast Australian outback can be underestimated by teams, who may not expect the huge distances between civilisations.
While competing in the Challenge, each team must stop at 5.00pm each day and camp overnight wherever they may find themselves. To do this over the length of the Challenge means serious planning and organization, including consideration of what to take on the route and waste management.
Chris is enthusiastic about encouraging effiency in support vehicles from an environmental point of view for teams, but explained that it will require considerable organizational resources both from teams and from the BWSC team.
On a new class for Production Cars (cars ready for commercial production)...
The interest continues in solar cars that we could eventually see on roads around the world. For Chris, we're as far away as political will and financing options.
Chris gave the comparison of Elon Musk and his evolutionary company Tesla, which was able to originate from the proceeds of Musk selling PayPal.
This, combined with the right sort of thinking and the right sort of investment paved the way for the success of Tesla.
Chris explained that it could be anyone, from anywhere in the world, to be the pioneer in bringing solar powered vehicles to our roads. An advantage is that there is already a strong foundation of solar technology for those interested to build on.
"The young people understand that they're not constrained by political history. All society has to do is give them the freedom to work" Chris said.
On the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge...
With less than 12 months to go until the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, Chris explained that we are going to be well stocked with teams, with over 30 already officially registered.
Chris has been travelling to various other Challenges - including the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa and the Carrera Solar Atacama in Chile - and meeting people from around the world who are intesreted in participating in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, both teams and prospective volunteers.
Chris concluded by talking about the huge advantages of coming to Australia for the challenge and its finishing point in Adelaide, South Australia. With a world-class food and wine scene, destinations such as Kangaroo Island and the Barossa Valley, and the ideal climates we often see in October, Adelaide is a great place to celebrate the conclusion of the challenge.
There are more insights from our One on One with Chris that you can hear, just head to the video on our Facebook page.