The World Solar Challenge is a testing ground for fresh and innovative ways of harnessing the power of the sun to provide us with our energy needs, especially that of the transportation sector. While the main technology behind the solar car, the photovoltaic cell, has been available since 1883, incorporating this into a practical and sustainable form of transportation is still an ongoing process. This, in fact, is the goal of the Challenge.
The cars that race, or "rayce" in the World Solar Challenge, are typically lightweight, have limited seating and cargo capacity, and most importantly, have a large area facing the sun at all times during the day. Because the efficiency of the photovoltaic cell is typically a little less than 30%, the solar car only has a limited amount of energy to run on. Thus, to maximize the speed of the car and efficiency of power usage, the solar car has to be aerodynamic as well.
These design concepts behind the solar car have been successfully tried and tested in solar challenges across the world, and these same concepts are the basic foundation of the first Philippine Solar Car, Sinag. The car looks fundamentally like a wing on wheels, with a solar cell-covered area of a little over 6 m2 at the top facing the sun. The car will be made out of carbon fiber and Nomex (aramid fiber) in order to keep it as light as possible so as to achieve a higher running speed.
Sinag will enter the World Solar Challenge in the Challenge class, where it will race against other solar cars from different countries around the world, all limited by the same design constraints that the De La Salle University students faced. Together, these silent products of the ingenuity, creativity and determination of budding engineers will drive the 3000 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide on the power of sunlight, driving only from eight in the morning to five in the evening.