Through the outback with the power of the sun

Team Sonnenwagen from Aachen has been participating in the world’s toughest solar car race, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, for years. Despite setbacks, the students don’t give up.


Traversing an entire continent fueled only by the power of the sun is the goal of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. In what is probably the world’s toughest solar car race, it is not just a matter of surviving the 3,000-kilometer route from Darwin in northern Australia through the outback to Adelaide in the south of the continent under harsh climatic conditions. Only the team whose car completes the tour in the shortest time will make it onto the winners’ podium at the end – speed is the key. For some years now, Team Sonnenwagen from Aachen has also been putting its concepts on the road, with support from Covestro.

Written by: Frank Rothbarth

Those who repeatedly take on this mega challenge are not daring adventurers. They are teams of students from all over the world who design and build new solar cars with a clear mind and a lot of engineering know-how. The race for the fastest and most efficient car is all about aerodynamic drag, weight, drive, stability, and often batteries.

When it comes to these terms, the members of Team Sonnenwagen know what they are talking about. The students from RWTH and FH Aachen are car designers with a passion. They already participated in the 2017 and 2019 races and learned from their previous experiences. This enabled them to keep optimizing the new car design.

Breakdown with a happy ending – the Sonnenwagen team doesn't give up. © Team Sonnenwagen Aachen

But there were also setbacks along the way: Caught in a gust of wind, the 2019 Sonnenwagen veered off the road, rolled over, and came to rest on its roof. Fortunately, the driver was uninjured, but the car was damaged and initially could not continue. What now? Giving up was not an option, so the team improvised and made makeshift repairs to the vehicle. In the end, there was no podium finish, but a large portion of pride and two awards for special perseverance: with solar energy and a lot of team spirit, the car had reached its destination.

The newest solar car: "Covestro Photon"

The latest Sonnenwagen, the "Covestro Photon", has just seen the light of day – for the first time in front of a virtual audience. It was scheduled to compete in the 2021 World Solar Challenge, but organizers decided to cancel the race because of the coronavirus pandemic. Once again, the team's entrepreneurial spirit prevailed: the car was completely finished and prepared. It will now participate in other races, such as the planned Solar Challenge Morocco (SCM), which runs partly through the Sahara Desert.

“We’re not giving up, and we're continuing to hone our concepts for a sustainable future mobility,” says Simon Quinker from Team Sonnenwagen. “And we're excited to have Covestro continue to be on our side as a major sponsor!”

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