Coimbatore

They harvested, transmitted and raced solar-powered cars

Drivers of solar-powered cars negotiating obstacles at the Solar Vehicle Design Competition that was held at the Hindusthan College of Engineering and Technology, recently.

Drivers of solar-powered cars negotiating obstacles at the Solar Vehicle Design Competition that was held at the Hindusthan College of Engineering and Technology, recently.   | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

The competition is the first of its kind in the State and second in the country

On a hot Sunday morning recently, drivers slowly accelerate their vehicles to take position one after another behind the start line. The organisers move around vehicles making sure everything is in place, the track is free of people and after ensuring that everything is fine, signal the vehicles to race.

As the 22 drivers, including two women, push the accelerator to propel forward the vehicle on the track at the Hindusthan College of Engineering and Technology, a small group of audience led by the College secretary Sarasuwathi Khannaiyann clap to cheer up the drivers.

After the last of 22 drivers has crossed start line, there is no smoke whatsoever from any of the vehicle. And, there is hardly any noise of revving engine that one usually associates with a race.

For, this is a race of three-wheel and four-wheel vehicles that are completely solar-powered and designed and fabricated by students, says K. Siva, Head of the Department, Mechanical Engineering.

The College in association with the Refrangible Society of Technophile Engineers (RSTE), a start-up, has conducted the competition and is the first of its kind in the State and second of its kind in the country, claims N.B. Bharath, the Tamil Nadu zonal head of the company.

The 22 drivers, who are members of as many competing teams, will have to drive non-stop for two hours the solar-powered vehicles while covering as many laps as possible. A lap is around two km.

This endurance test (race) is the finality of a series of tests the organisers have conducted over the last five days, says Mr. Siva. “This race, also called Saur Urja Vehicle Challenge, is a test validating the technology the students have adopted to build their car.”

The other tests the College and RSTE have conducted include brake and acceleration test, suspension test, egress test (the ease and speed with which drivers are able to leave their car in an emergency) and auto cross (driving to form '8' pattern) among others, Mr. Bharath says.

“The most important of the tests is the brake and acceleration test, where the distance the cars travel after braking is calculated and distance travelled in a given time after acceleration is assessed. Only if the cars clear the test, the teams are allowed to use them in the race. And it is based on the ranking in this test that the organisers decided the positing of vehicles at start line.”

Though the race is of two hours, the organisers announced the competition at least six months ago inviting application from engineering colleges. After vetting the applications, the RSTE followed it up by holding workshops for the selected teams and giving specifications.

“We gave the rules, which runs into several pages – the length and width of cars to be built, the battery power, transmission specifications, etc. And, after the students were ready with the design, we vetted them for a second time as well.”

The organisers later followed it up by checking the teams’ business plans on the first day of the five-day event, Head of the Department Mr. Ravi adds.

For the teams, though, it was a challenging task as students from mechanical, electrical, electronics and communicating and electronics and instrumentation engineering disciplines had to interact and work with one another to build the car from scratch.

The all-woman Tejaswini team from Deogiri Institute of Engineering and Technology, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, says the electronics and communication engineering students learnt about materials, chassis, transmission, etc. “It was a good learning experience – learning from another discipline and also team work and management,” say students Manisha Rode and Rani Chate.

Sri Sairam Engineering College students T. Elayaraja and his friends say that they learnt from their seniors who participated in the first edition of the event that was held in Gwalior last year.

RSTE’s Mr. Bharath says the objective of holding the event is also to channelise the students' interest solar-powered vehicles.

The College Secretary Ms. Khannaiyann only agrees. “Solar powered or battery-powered vehicles will be the way forward, what with the cost of fossil fuels going up and the quantity decreasing by the day.” The jury selected 'Solaracers' from NIT, Bhopal as the winner, team 'Hindusthani Lahurian' as the first runner-up and team ' Trail Blazzers' as the second runner up. The last two teams are from Hindusthan College of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore.

Muralidharan Gopikrishnan, Programme Manager, Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre of India have away the prizes in the presence of Ms. Khannaiyann. V. Hariharan of Messer Cutting India Pvt. Ltd. was present at the inauguration.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 8:00:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/they-harvested-transmitted-and-raced-solar-powered-cars/article26493159.ece

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