Durham University Solar Car

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Durham University Solar Car (DUSC) is a student-run team that designs and constructs solar powered cars to compete in international competitions. The team is financed entirely by third party donations and sponsorship.


Durham University Solar Car is based in the university’s School of Engineering & Computing Sciences, with a small team size of around 20 undergraduate students split broadly across mechanical, electrical, electronic and business sub-teams. The team is also strongly supported by graduates and academics within the department with expertise in the fields of solar technology, racing car aerodynamics, direct-drive electrical machines and electrical/hybrid vehicles. Many concepts and features implemented in the vehicles have been developed as part of final year undergraduate projects.

The team was originally founded in 2002, with the first vehicle being built in 2004.[1] DUSC’s first competitive event was the 2008 North American Solar Challenge in which they finished 14th out of 26 competitors, earning the “Best Rookie Team” award.[2] They were the only British team to compete. DUSC also competed in the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge race across Australia, finishing 33rd out of 42 entrants.[3] Work is currently progressing on developing a vehicle with a brand new aerodynamics and solar package to compete in WSC 2013.

DUSC has also participated in a number of local community and awareness outreach events, including touring schools[4] and museum exhibitions[5] to promote science, technology and engineering. In 2010, DUSC ran a successful demonstration event[6] with Cambridge University Eco Racing (CUER), and it is hoped to repeat the event later in 2012.

Current Vehicle (DUSC2011)[edit]

Design Specifications[edit]

Number of Wheels 3 (2 front steered, 1 rear driven)
Solar Array Power 1.4 kW
Solar Cell Efficiency 16%
Maximum Motor Power 5 kW
Maximum Speed 56 mph
Battery Storage Capacity 4.8 kWh
Chassis Construction Steel space frame
Bodyshell Construction Carbon fibre

Mechanical Design[edit]

The steel space frame chassis was designed using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) computational packages. The chassis is strong enough to withstand a heavy impact, whilst also being as light as possible. The suspension consists of racing shock absorbers with a conventional double wishbone arrangement at the front and a trailing arm at the rear. Special brake calipers are used which retract to ensure there are no frictional losses when the brakes aren't applied. Specialist solar car tyres are employed to reduce rolling resistance.

Electrical Design[edit]

A combination of high-efficiency silicon solar cells and maximum power point trackers are used to extract the maximum possible power from the available solar energy and feed it into a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack. The vehicle is driven by a specially designed axial flux wheel motor via a custom controller, resulting in higher efficiency and less transmission loss than conventional electric motors.

Electronic Design[edit]

The vehicle makes use of a telemetry system operating the CAN protocol to communicate real-time vehicle data over a radio link to a support vehicle. Using this data, the driver may make control adjustments to the vehicle to account for the current performance of the electrical package.

Racing as DUSC2008[edit]

Substantially the same car was raced both as DUSC2008 across North America and as DUSC2011 across Australia. The major changes between the two are that in 2008 a chain drive was used instead of the in wheel motor, lead acid batteries were used instead of lithium iron, and a commercial solar array was used instead of in-house custom encapsulated panels. There were also numerous other minor changes.

Development Vehicle[edit]

Due to changes in the WSC regulations, a new car is currently in development. This will incorporate a number of elements from the old car, but with a new four wheeled carbon fibre monocoque bodyshell. The old car is to remain in a working state, primarily for display.


Year Race Car Car Number Entrants Final Position Achievements
2008 North American Solar Challenge DUSC2008 175 24 14 First competitive race

Best Rookie Team

2011 World Solar Challenge DUSC2011 14 42 33


Financially DUSC relies solely on sponsorship and has received support[7] from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Gurit, Deloitte, Durham University Engineering Society, the Energy Institute, RS Components, Nissan, C&D Technologies and EPSRC.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DUSC History". Durham University Solar Car. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  2. ^ "Local Technology: Durham University's Solar Car". The Bubble. 2010-11-16. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  3. ^ "2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge Provisional Results Pending Protests" (PDF). World Solar Challenge. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  4. ^ "Sun Powered Car Sets Off on Tour". The BBC. 2004-07-04. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  5. ^ "Solar car in Endurance Challenge". The BBC. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  6. ^ "Arrive 'N' Drive Demonstrates the Future of Sustainable Motoring". Greenfleet. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  7. ^ "DUSC Sponsors". Durham University Solar Car. Retrieved 2008-09-19. 

External links[edit]