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Campus beat: Soul-blazers who created Soleblaze

By Parimala Hariprasad | JAN 2017

In today’s world where technology is changing rapidly, a passionate team at RVCE has successfully designed Soleblaze, a solar car with global standards. The car has been designed to promote the use of the most abundant natural resource — sunlight. The work of these students, who call themselves The RVCE Solar Car Team, has grabbed the attention of many manufacturers of eco-friendly vehicles.

How it all started:

The single-seater solar car is capable of running at an average speed of 90 km per hour when there is sunlight. It can run for 200 km at a speed of 60 kmph at night with the help of stored solar energy. The RVCE Solar Car Team has successfully collaborated with 30 of the world’s leading companies in their respective domains to bring out the prototype.

The United States’ leading solar cell manufacturer SunPower has offered efficient solar cells, making the RVCE team one of the few to have access to this technology. The project received support from Indian industrialists as well as from several foreign corporate firms in and outside the solar power industry.

Infosys mentor N R Narayana Murthy, Wipro chairman Azim Premji and former CEO and founder of Mahindra REVA Chetan Maini, are among those who have supported the project with funds and guidance. Former chief mentor of RVCE Solar Car team, former college principal B S Satyanarayana said the students had an opportunity to study conventional automobile technology, controls and powertrain, besides focusing on sustainable technologies.

Principal Dr K N Subramanya was in the forefront, supporting the initiative. The project, from concept to design, development, fabrication, testing, participation and transportation, was executed on a tight budget. "Kudos to the team. For students of a local engineering college to apply what they learned in a classroom to design something like this and go through the rigmarole of getting parts from different parts of the world is extraordinary. I'm proud of them," said Mr Narayana Murthy, one of India's most respected philanthropists, who gave the team Rs 30 lakh for the project.

Sharan M, a third-year mechanical engineering student, said: "We would like to showcase India’s potential on the global stage by taking part in this competition. The idea of developing a solar car struck us in the first semester. The project was approved in 2014."

Soon, the team was set to participate in the World Solar Car Challenge held in Australia in October 2015. Unfortunately, they couldn't take part in the challenge. The shipping company had promised the RVCE team that the car and battery would arrive at the venue on October 9. "The car reached us on October 14. The battery came two days later and it was damaged during transit," said Vikram R Nath, a mechanical engineering student who led the team.

The exact cause of delay was not known at that time. "We couldn't control our emotions. We were disappointed," RVCE associate professor S Mahendra Kumar said. However, this didn’t stop them from pursuing their passion. A brand new team has taken upon itself to take the Soleblaze project ahead and give it wings in 2017.

2017 – A year of new hopes:

The first cycle of the project was sponsored by many generous hearts at Sunedison, Wipro, NI and TE. Sunpower and Wipro have agreed to support the second cycle as well. Team members have managed to tap leading corporates such as IBM, MRC Ltd and TAML for technical and financial assistance.

In short, the project is well on its way to being a huge success, right from being the only solar car team from India with so many sponsors on board, to building the most advanced solar car in India, from scratch. The second prototype started off by reaching out to various companies and individuals who have shown interest in the project.

Brains behind the innovation:

Team managers — Varun K R, Lalit Kumar, Ashray Achary
Mechanical team — Cherian Thomas, Abinash Panda, Viketh S, Ritvij Raj, Deepak Udupa, Raman Raj, Varshith, Vaibhav R
Fabrication team — Megha R, Chandraprakash, Akhil Mukundan
Electronics team — Kunaal M, Channabaswa N, Shravan M S, Limbaji, Abinash B, Sumit Kumar, G S Karthik
Sponsorship and media team — Akhil Mukundan, Pallavi Surana

The complete list of team members can be found at http://www.solarcar-rvce.in/team.html

What's in the pipeline:

The team plans to incorporate the following features in the next prototype: A stiffer and stronger base for solar panels. Enhance strength of the material used for various mechanical components like the knuckle and the joints. A complete monocoque carbon fibre body which reduces the weight increases the strength. Safer battery box design to ensure rugged usage. Usage of Indian-made components, to reduce the cost without compromising on quality.

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