Regulations – Analogous to laws in the larger world, they are necessary to create a level playing field for all teams and to direct designs to be applicable to commuter vehicles. Back in June, the world solar challenge posted their new regulations for the 2013 race season, bringing forth a slew of changes. In terms of the aerodynamic design and general vehicle configuration, the major changes include a much stricter seating position, a larger field of vision, as well as requiring vehicles to have 4 wheels.
Given that the aerobody team had already worked out a preliminary design prior to the new regulations, the WSC announcement was met with a mixture of sadness and excitement. Sadness because there would still be much work ahead creating a new design, and excitement because the new regulations force all competing teams to stray from the traditional three wheel design and individually explore feasible solutions. This means that there is much more room for creative design, and hopefully many different configurations at the next race.
In terms of the new design, each of the regulation changes presents a different but not mutually exclusive challenge. For example, the four wheels is arguably the biggest change as the driver can no longer be seated with the single rear wheel, and the team must explore driver seating and aerobody configurations. At the same time, we must ensure that any configuration meets both components of the vision requirements i.e. that the driver’s head must be free to rotate 45 degrees in front and he must see in a cone around him.
The aero team has spent the last three months working in collaboration with the array and mechanical team to meet these challenges. We are close to a final design that will be sent to manufacturers in the coming month.