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Sunny outlook for Aurora

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THE volunteer-based Aurora team has won the Australian Greenhouse Office SunRace 2002, successfully completing 2300 scorching kms between Adelaide and Sydney ahead of a highly competitive international field.

Citing innovations in a number of areas, including aerodynamics and rolling resistance reduction, Dave Fewchuck, Aurora chairman, thanked volunteers and corporate sponsors of the team, that was formed to pursue greener and more efficient vehicle technology.

“We’ve got an edge in aerodynamics, and edge in motor efficiency, an edge in some of the electronics that drive the car and good telemetry. It’s a good, worked out, simple car now,” Fewchuck told PACE.

“Breakthroughs (in solar design) are a bit hard to find nowadays, but, for example, if you think about the fact that solar energy collected in this manner is a pretty lower energy, 1500 watts is just a bit better than a hairdryer, the issue is how you use it most efficiently,” said Fewchuck.

“The biggest user of the energy is cutting through the air, consequently we historically have focussed on getting the very best aerodynamics that we can get, and from all the tests that we’ve done, we’re the best aerodynamic car in solar racing worldwide.

“That’s an edge, not a big edge, but an edge. Our energy advantage is coming from a very good, aerodynamic car.”

Fewchuck points out that the Aurora team’s fundamental aim of encouraging green innovation in the motor industry is bearing fruit beyond the race, with commercial tyre technology benefits.

“We’re also focus on rolling resistance reduction, we’re using special Michelin tyres to do that. That technology has now moved into Michelin tyres you can buy for your family car.”

The Aurora car also features innovative engine design.

“We’re a three wheeler, and our front wheel is the motor, and we co-developed that with CSIRO is Australia, and it has seen efficiency levels of 98.4%. It’s the best solar car motor anywhere in the world.

“It’s ahead of what Honda could achieve. They were shocked actually that we had done this.”

Fewchuck said preparation for the SunRace required special technical considerations and design modifications.

“The SunRace is interesting because the rules pull back everybody’s solar power to no more than 1200 watts, and typically we will have 1500, so we’ve got to delete some of our panel as it were. And the rules also limit the battery size to only half the battery you can have at the World Solar Challenge, so you’ve got to watch your batteries very, very carefully.”

The team worked with Proston, Queensland-based electronics company, AERL on the development of highly efficient solar power trackers and used a telemetry system developed in Australia by MoTeC.

Aurora has 55 supporter companies or organisations, including Ford, Minter Ellison, Sumitomo Corporation, Bosch, 101 Collins Street and the Victorian Government.

Fewchuck sees the SunRace as a means of promoting greenhouse gas reduction practices, highlighting Australian technology and encouraging young engineers in the Aurora Association to advance their careers.

“We’re an organisation that’s been around 21-22 years now, loosely… It wasn’t a very formal beginning.

“We’re always looking to push highly efficient boundaries in transport, cars basically. And in the early 80s, the group were mainly Ford engineers from Geelong, and they focussed on fuel economy with petrol driven vehicles and actually held three successively better world records, the last one was over 5000 miles per gallon.

“And then when solar car racing came along, our team said this is where we need to be, and we’ve been the top Australian team in every event.

“We’re a voluntary group, we refuse nobody who wants to join us. We’ve got a good association with RMIT University, and many of the people there do theses project around Aurora matters, either wind tunnel or aerodynamics of electronic layout.”

The Aurora car measures 4580 mm in length, and weigh 205 kg without the driver. It features a triangular frame made of carbon fibre, with a circular cross section.

The solar cells are single junction, Gallium Arsenide on Germanium space grade cells, from Tecstar. Cell efficiency is 20-22%, and the cells are sized at 65.02 x 40.01 mm.

The array power is 1500 watts, with the 15kg motor developed by CSIRO/Artimech/UTS/Aurora. Peak power is 8 kW, with continuous power of 6 kW.

The high efficiency motor controller was developed by In Motion Technologies in collaboration with Northern Territory University.

Matthew Denby

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