For the third time in a row, Team Sonnenwagen took on the challenge of participating in the world’s toughest solar car race across the Australian outback – the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. From October 22 to 29, the students from RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Sciences did well with their self-developed vehicle “Covestro Adelie”: Despite challenging climatic conditions, they were able to maintain an average speed of around 80 kilometers per hour on the more than 3,000-kilometer route from Darwin to Adelaide. In a strong competitive environment, they positioned themselves among the top five cars, but in the harshness of the race, an accident finally occurred, which fortunately was mild, but forced the team to abandon the race.
“For me, Team Sonnenwagen had already won even before the race! Team Sonnenwagen had captured the hearts and minds and the collective enthusiasm of all Covestro employees around the globe,” says Sucheta Govil, Chief Commercial Officer of Covestro. “The team grabbed its rightful first place in qualifying and set its sights on victory from the start from pole position. The Covestro team was integral in its support. Yes, support to the students via innovative material developments but also fully involved throughout the race. And the Aachen-based team did its part: With their efficient car design and sophisticated driving performance, they led from the very front in performance, in design and in resilience, guts and stamina. I’m very proud of the team!”
“Of course, risk always rides along, especially if you want to achieve a top position,” says Simon Zaers from Team Sonnenwagen. “Nevertheless, our intensive development work of around two years really paid off, especially because we also attached importance to a safe design. It played its part in ensuring that no one was injured in the accident. We were also able to gain a lot of valuable experience for the construction of our next solar runabout, with which we would like to participate in the World Solar Challenge 2025. Together with the other teams, we continue to pursue our goal of enabling more sustainable mobility with innovative designs – powered only by the power of the sun.”
Covestro shares the enthusiasm of the Aachen team and has been supporting it as a main sponsor for around five years. The company is convinced that high-performance plastics are the key to climate-neutral and circular mobility in the future, and is working with customers and partners to develop material innovations and new recycling technologies to achieve this.
Covestro also believes that the 50-strong Sonnenwagen team is on the right track in terms of cooperation: from development and design to the race itself, nine departments worked closely together to optimize aerodynamics and electrical engineering, the chassis, the powertrain and, not least, the driving strategy. The result after more than 200,000 hours of calculations for the outer shape and around 10,000 workshop hours for the body is impressive – and weighs a lot: the structure of the Adelie weighs in at 16 percent less than its predecessor, and the chassis even weighs a fifth less. These improvements are also due to materials from Covestro.
“After the race is before the race,” sums up Lina Schwering, 1st Chairwoman of Team Sonnenwagen. “We will also learn from this competition and continue to optimize our design with a partially new team, just as the other teams are doing. There are very many parameters on whose interaction the race will be decided, and consistency and the will to consistently learn from experience will ultimately lead to the goal. However, this race has also shown us that in the end it also depends on a certain quantum of luck.”