The Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM) team finished as the top British team in the recent Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia.

The team finished 14th in the Challenger Class for single seat cars powered by solar panels and built for total energy efficiency.

The Challenge saw the team, made up largely of undergraduate students, drive more than 2800km across the Australian outback, crossing the continent from north to south powered only by the sun.

The car, called Ortus, has been researched, designed, manufactured and tested at Durham University by a team of more than 50 people.

The car is made from carbon-fibre and uses a single custom-made in-wheel motor. It weighs just 178 kg and cruises on the highway using less power than a hairdryer. Its shape makes it so aerodynamic that its drag is comparable to the wing mirrors on a regular car.

The race allows driving between 8am and 5pm – sharing the highway with 4-trailer road trains weighing more than 1000 times the solar car. Daytime temperatures during the event exceeded 40C in the shade, with temperatures in the car hot enough to melt plastic components.

Team member, Owen Foo, said: “We camped on the side of the road every night, stopping wherever the car pulled over at 5pm to enjoy the peaceful tranquility offered by the outback – and a sky full of stars. We encountered kangaroos, wallabies, emus and wild horses!”

The team arrived in Hidden Valley Raceway two weeks before the race to make final preparations and to conduct hot-weather road and track tests. This was followed by static and dynamic scrutineering where officials verified that the car complied with race regulations and was roadworthy. Finally, a day before the race began, all teams completes a qualifying lap to determine starting position. A lap time of 2:36.9 placed Ortus 18th on the starting line, ultimately finishing 14th out of 27.

The return to the UK signals the start of a new chapter for the team, with hopes to enter the European Solar Challenge next year, gain new sponsors, and improve Ortus even more.

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