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Under the Bologna Sun

Under the Bologna Sun

25 Jul 2019

Under the Bologna Sun

‘Believing in a cleaner world does not mean to give up an asset but to fully enjoy it in a sustainable way.’

Inspiring words once spoken by Onda Solare, the only Italian entrant for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, and a team that has all the makings of success for this edition.

Based at the University of Bologna in the heart of Italy, the team has been working since 2005 to develop competition vehicles for solar challenges around the globe. In addition to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, they’ve competed in the Abu Dhabi World Solar Challenge (an invitation-only race), the iLumen European Solar Challenge, and most recently the American Solar Challenge.

There may be few better places in the world to be building and developing a solar vehicle, and no one knows that better than Onda Solare, as team member Davide Pontara told us.

“Italy has a great sensibility towards renewable energy forms. 30% of the total electric energy demand comes from renewables – it’s the highest percentage among European countries”

“Italy is also currently the biggest producer of solar energy in Europe. This allows us to find many small companies and passionate people eager to link their name to the only solar cruiser in the country”.

And passionate they are. Onda Solare is comprised of students, technicians, engineers and manufacturers. They differ in backgrounds, occupation and age – their team members range from ages 17 – 80 – but they are linked by one thing; their passion.

“The only link is the passion for solar mobility. The many students are almost entirely engineering students – mechanical, electrical, energetic”.

Naturally, since the shift towards solar power in Italy is moving at an admirable rate. As recently as January this year, the Italian government published a plan for climate and energy, envisaging a central role for solar in the nation’s energy mix.

The National Integrated Plan for Climate and Energy 2030, laid out a target for solar power generation to 74 TWh. By then, solar energy is expected to represent more than half of Italy’s renewables capacity, with the second largest energy source hydropower.

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Onda Solare then, is based in a nation that will soon be a world leader in solar technology and solar power consumption, as well as the home of Ferrari – one of the world’s top sports car manufacturers. Onda Solare’s vehicles have even at points been influenced by the production of Formula 1 vehicles, with steering boxes of Formula 1 derivation used in their vehicle design.

While it certainly helps to be based in a country that so highly values solar energy, this isn’t everything. Nearby European nations are well known to produce high-achieving BWSC teams, with the Netherlands in particular having a strong history of dominating in Australia. So, what advantage do they have?

“We are for sure more organized than the Germans, more competitive than the Dutch, more technical than the Belgians, and we also know how to cook!”

Although cooking may not seem vital to the success of a solar vehicle, when it comes to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, every part of the experience contributes in a way, big or small.

Talking us through the mix of their team members, Davide highlights just how important every team member’s role is when it comes to the BWSC.

“[From] Mauro we all learned the carbon fiber process, and all of the little secrets to make the car as light as possible. Ruggero is the historic driver with tons of experience, also on logistics. Marco S is the mechanic to go with if you need something fast and reliable and is great with a CAD too. Antonella is the key figure for the whole team. Without her and her cooking expertise, we would not have known how to survive”.

Together, they form a quietly formidable force when it comes to Solar Car Challenging; their team won the inaugural Cruiser class competition at the American Solar Challenge last year. Like any team, their eyes are on the prize for the upcoming Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, and it’s about that time now when preparations dominate each team member’s lives.

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“We have yoga lovers, scuba diving trainers… Others like hiking, bicycling, boxing, technical drawing. However, the closer that a solar competition gets the only common hobby becomes the solar car, which occupies all of the spare time"

Like any team, Onda Solare will be using these final couple of months for intense preparations. Aside from their vehicle, teams must prepare and pack everything they might need for a 3000km journey through the desolate Australian outback, for a group of team members. Ideally, all of those team members will leave Darwin, and arrive in Adelaide together as well…

“We are quite sure we are the only team to forget two team members at a control stop. We found out when the convoy was already moving out – we saw them coming out of the pub with an ice cream in their hands.”

The most important thing that Onda Solare will be packing? Their coffee.

Coming from a nation that is thought by many around the world to be home to the world’s best coffee, we explained to the Italian team that we think that Australia has in fact, got them beat on that front.

“Oh, really? That’s interesting. We will be sure to try it out, but we will also bring our coffee from home, just in case.”

For any teams looking for an authentic Italian experience, in the middle of Darwin, Australia, they need look no further than the Onda Solare garage in Hidden Valley, where they’ll serve you a true, Italian coffee.

You can follow Onda Solare’s 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge journey on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge runs from October 13 - 20 2019, starting in Darwin and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia.

Images courtesy of Onda Solare.