Xenith came to the 2011 World Solar Challenge with the world’s first solar array encapsulated in thin glass. The team developed the first three wheel steering for a solar car that allowed Xenith to sail in cross winds. Xenith also featured flexible skirts that extended the aero body to the road surface. The team also developed an ambitious aero body profile creating a vehicle with the smallest frontal area of any solar car at the 2011 World Solar Challenge or any other race in recent memory
The car was a technical marvel. However, during the race, Xenith and the team did not perform to the initial expectations of the group. The team’s focus on inventing new technologies forced the team to reallocate time and resources away from testing and reiterating proven designs towards developing “firsts.” During the months before the race in Australia, the team did not run adequate testing for their new technologies and many systems suffered from persistent bugs during the race. A handful of unrefined system designs and race planning mistakes culminated in a two and a half hour pit stop that dropped the team from 5th place in the race to 17th place. The team rallied to gain an 11th place finish out of 40 teams in the end of the race.
The completed car featured a composite aero body with an incredibly small frontal area. The main body compartment was a mere four inches thick and all of the other components were optimized to fit. The front suspension featured a compact multilink geometry which reduced wheel scrub. The rear suspension included a linear actuator which could turn the rear wheel while driving. This allowed the car to make U-turns without having wide front fairings and it allowed the car to always have efficient air flow by pointing into cross winds. Xenith also featured solar panels that were encapsulated in ultra thin and strong Corning glass. The car’s electrical system was very robust, showing no significant problems during the 2011 World Solar Challenge.
For the next several days, our primary obstacle was weather: throughout the entire duration of the race, we faced varying levels of cloud cover, as well as head- and sidewinds. And as the days went on, the sky only got darker. On day 5, we had a moment of triumph using our fly-by-wire rear-wheel steering to make the car sail during an hour of stiff sidewinds. But by late afternoon, our batteries were empty.
On day 6, we spent our morning stopped, hoping to gather charge. However, conditions were still overcast, and we got little power. We drove very slowly until afternoon. Since the last 300km of the race between Port Augusta and Adelaide are closed to solar cars on the morning of Day 7, we knew that we couldn’t finish, so we decided to travel the rest of the way by trailer.
Team Lead - Guillermo Gomez
Array Lead - Matthew Matera
Business/Logistics Lead - Rachel Abril
Financial Officer - Kelsey Josund
Co-Mechanical Lead - Anna Olson
Co-Mechanical Lead - Aravind Arun
Engineering Lead - Darren Chen
Composites Lead - Jamie Goldfield
Embedded Code Team Lead - Eric Thong
“Participating in the Stanford Solar Car Project was a wonderful experience for me that really taught me how to make an engineering design function in the real world in a way that classes never could. For me this was one of the best ways to learn these hands-on lessons that I am still using today.”
– JB Straubel, Chief Technical Officer, Tesla Motors, & SSCP Alumnus