TEAM | Solar Energy Racers (SER)
CAR NAME | SER-3
COUNTRY | Switzerland
CLASS | Challenger
Unlike most other teams, the Solar Energy Racers consist mostly of 16 – 18-year-old enthusiasts from a small village in Switzerland called Uzwil. The teenagers are sheet metal, electrical and mechanical design apprentices at the Bühler Group factory – a Swiss technology company.
The Solar Energy Racers team has been competing in solar car events across the globe since 2011. However, none of them are full-time solar car racers, and there are no monetary benefits or academic outputs generated by their work. They are all simply volunteers who work on the car after hours in an old garage, and joke that they’re the “low budget, grass roots, garage team”.
Despite this, the team has racked up accolades in their seven years of competing, most notably a top-five finish at the 2013 World Solar Challenge across Australia, second-place finish in the 2014 European Solar Challenge, and a runner-up in the 2016 American Solar Challenge.
The apprentices get assistance from a handful of academics from ETH Zurich University and the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, as well as coaching from experts at the Bühler Group.
The team is building a new car, SER-3, for the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge’s updated regulations. The car’s shell is made from carbon fibre and resin lamination, and will only weight about 140 kg. The students do most of the manufacturing themselves, but the drive motor, solar array and battery packs are being bought. Their budget is just shy of 160 000 Swiss Francs (roughly R2,2 million).
Because the team members are so young, they face the unusual challenge of not having many drivers to choose from - most of them are too young to have their licenses! A handful of older team members, who are also light enough to be drivers, will take on this responsibility.
The Solar Energy Racers keep their spirits high by having a meeting every single Thursday to discuss progress. They’re also supported by their entire village. While Uzwil locals can’t help financially, they contribute manpower, nuts and bolts, and the local chocolate manufacturer makes sure they have enough chocolate to power through the late nights of hard work!