“So smooth:” Students test drive solar car they spent three years designing

On a soaking wet spring day at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus in Victoria, under a leaden sky devoid of sunshine, two former engineering students are finally taking the solar-powered car they have painstakingly designed over three long years for a spin.

“It’s so smooth,” enthuses Angus McDonald, one of the two key designers among the 1,000-strong engineering cohort that contributed to the project, when I ask him how the vehicle, codenamed ASCEND, drives. 

The car, which still has some kinks that need to be worked out, has been designed and built to compete in the 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, in which teams of engineers will race their custom-designed, solar-powered cars along a gruelling 3,000 kilometre outback route between Darwin and Adelaide.

It’s the first time McDonald has had the chance to get behind the wheel of this project, after nearly three of lockdowns, COVID interruptions, a postponed race and makeshift, at-home workshopping.

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