Will Indian students’ solar car make it to contest?

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : A bright young student team is all set to take its creation, a solar car, to the World Solar Challenge in Australia Oct 18 – if lack of funds doesn’t cut its journey short.

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Standing next to the three-wheeled car, roughly the size of a Honda City, 10 students of the Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) couldn’t help beaming with pride.

“It took us a year to complete this car. We started working on the car in November last year. Driven on three wheels, as solar cars generally are, the car has six panels on its body.

“It has no gear or clutch and is driven by sunlight instead. There are speed controllers to change the speed,” 20-year-old Megha Aggarwal, one of the team members, told IANS.

School and college students are known to have made models of vehicles powered by the sun. But this is perhaps the first time that a full-size solar car has been put together. The team’s members are mostly third year students of DCE, with just two of them from the second year.

“It was a challenge for us but we did it. From designing the car’s body on the computer to putting the whole thing together… We all come from different streams – some are from mechanical, some from production while others are from electronics.

“So it helps putting all our heads together to create something,” said Harpriya Goraya, the only other girl member of the team.

At Australia’s World Solar Challenge, which is a solar powered car race, the participating teams are required to drive a distance of 3,000 km over a period of eight days through central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.

But while DCE’s car is ready to see the light of day at the competition, lack of funds is posing a major threat.

“We need funds to transport the car to Australia. The cargo charges and our travel need to be funded. Although the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) has supported us with Rs. 1.38 million and our college has given us Rs. 116,000, we are still short of nearly Rs.1.5-1.6 million,” said Megha.

Explaining the break-up, Harpriya said the cargo would cost nearly Rs.600,000 and the travel of the team, to and fro, would come to Rs.1 million. Besides this, the competition also requires two escort vehicles to be driven in front and behind the solar car throughout the race.

“As of now, it’s just JK Tyres which sponsored our five tyre kit, besides MNRE and our college. Since the car has to reach Australia by Oct 10 and the competition is on Oct 18, we request private companies to help us with funds at the earliest,” said Harpriya.

With their competitors from America and other countries using thin panels on their cars for maximum output and not having to worry about funds, the students here feel that lack of resources are a problem in India.

“All this while we were so busy with the project that we didn’t get enough time to look for funds. We had approached Maruti but it didn’t work out. Resources are always a problem here.

“But we still hope that something will work out,” added Megha.