World Solar Challenge – Sonnenwagen Aachen e.V.Copyright: Christian Offermanns
The World Solar Challenge is considered the most challenging race for solar-powered vehicles worldwide, taking participating teams on a 3,022-kilometer journey through the Australian outback. Teams from all over the world have been taking part since 1987, with most of the teams based at universities. The aim of the competition is to support and showcase student-led research and development in the field of solar vehicles and visibly promote sustainable mobility.
The competition takes place every two years and is organized by the Australian Tourism Commission and the Australian Department of Transport. Furthermore, it receives support from its long-standing sponsor, Bridgestone. The international teams also receive support from their own sponsors and can thus boast up to 7-figure budgets.
The Sonnenwagen Aachen e.V. association was established in 2015 by a group of RWTH students and is registered as an RWTH student organization.
The goal of our association is to make the most of the potential of electric mobility by developing a solar-driven vehicle. By participating in the World Solar Challenge, we want to demonstrate the potential of innovative sustainable technologies to the wider public. Furthermore, as a German team in the challenger class we also want to represent Germany and, in particular, RWTH, in an international competition with competitors from other top universities such as MIT, Stanford, and TU Delft.
Sonnenwagen Aachen is to be established as a long-term institution at the University. We are continually recruiting new members, have developed a new project and financial plan, and are currently negotiating with potential sponsors. In this way we are positive that students will continue to be able to apply their newly gained expertise in a hands-on project in the years, and races, to come.
Moreover, students gain important experience for their later careers, developing transferable skills such as team work, organization, and marketing skills. The technological innovations resulting from our work should also be implemented in collaboration with our partner institutes and companies. Another option is the establishment of spin-off companies to bring innovations to market.
As a young association, we had to tackle greater problems than the more established racing teams from other universities. We had difficulties convincing investors of the great potential of our project and it was hard to get media coverage and reach a wider audience since we did not have a history of participating in races and previous success stories to fall back on. The support from our sponsors, RWTH, and the University institutes was therefore crucial.
The team was very successful in the 2019 competition, where, besides earning sixth place, they also received the "Safety" and "Spirit of the Event" awards.
The Sonnenwagen project receives support from the Quality Improvement Fund.