Stettler Elementary School students surprised the Schulich Axiom team members on Monday, May 9, with their educated questions on aerodynamics and solar power when the solar car made a brief stop in town on its way to Elk Island National Park as part of a provincial tour in preparation for October’s World Solar Challenge race in Australia.
Team members, all engineering students of the Schulich School of Engineering of the University of Calgary, made several presentations to groups of students in the course of the three hours they spent in Stettler.
The upgraded version of the solar car, Schulich Axiom, which can reach a speed of 140 km. per hour has been recently redesigned and rebuilt in an 18-month long process.
The solar car, managed through turning of knobs and use of switches rather than acceleration and brake pedals, was also visited by many residents of the community in front of the elementary school.
The Schulich Axiom, which will run a 4,000 km race in Australia, cutting through the continent from north to south, has four trained drivers with each driver taking turns to take the car from one stop to the next in trips that could take as long as five hours.
One of the drivers Mico Madamesila said one of the most difficult features of the solar car was the lack of power steering.
“You have to be on your toes keeping it straight and making right and left turns at the right time,” Madamesila said.
“Another hard part is the heat. Once you are inside the car, you are in a greenhouse.”
Despite being a light car, Madamesila said the aerodynamic design of the car helps the driver keep it stable even in speeds over 90 km per hour, for which the car is designed for.
“It is more stable than an average car,” he said.
Each of the four drivers have gone extensive training, including some weight lifting to build necessary muscles to allow them to sit in a tight driving seat for extended hours.
Schulich Axiom weighs only 225 kg. and most interestingly it travels on a 1200 watt battery, just enough power to operate a big hair dryer.
The first version of the car was first built in 2004 and since then the car was redesigned twice, with the last design upgraded this year.