'Oh no, that doesn't look good at all,' shouted the Green Team members as we watched their car Aurora One to unexpectedly slow down on the race track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park in London. Although unconfirmed at that moment, we all knew it was 'game over' for them. This was their last opportunity to set a valid score at the SEM.
Isolation blanket and aluminium foil to the rescue
The past two days brought a lot of ups and downs for the Green Team. After they arrived to London, they managed to get their hydrogen car through the technical inspection without any issues, but as soon as they took it on the race track to compete, it broke down after driving for only a few hundred meters. The same happened during their second official attempt.
At that point, the team believed the car's failure could be caused by the telemetric system provided by Shell for the purpose of measuring the vehicle's fuel consumption. 'We tested the car a lot at the university and we had no problems - until we arrived to London,' said Karolina Vaschenko, Green Team's communication officer, explaining that the engineers therefore decided to wrap the telemetric system in an isolation blanket and aluminium foil. 'It might be interfering with the rest of the system, so we need to isolate it from the rest of the car.'
This solution seemed to work. For a while. During their third attempt on the race track this morning, the car made full four rounds. Until it, once again, came to an abrupt stop. Was it indeed the Shell's telemetric system that was causing the problems? 'Now it looks like it was the CCTV cameras around the track,' found out the team leader Feike van Veen after talking to the event's organizers. 'They send out such strong signals it messes up our system. We will cover our cables so they don't work as antennas,' he explained the next step.
And it looked promising. Very promising. Aurora One made full fourteen rounds on the track, while fifteen are necessary to constitute a valid attempt. The team was cheering from the sidelines, ready to celebrate. Yet, all of the sudden, the green car lost its speed and cheers were replaced by sad faces and consoling hugs among the team members. Although Aurora One finished all fifteen laps, it didn't do it fast enough. The Green Team's last attempt was also invalid. 'It sucks, that's all I can say,' commented Van Veen.
'Unfortunate series of events'
'We were confronted with an unfortunate series of events,' thinks a team member Bram Rijkhoff. 'We worked so hard and we were so close. We had to take all the risks and it didn't work out. The temperature of the fuel cell kept rising and so we couldn't go any faster. We have the technically best car, but we got a lot thrown at us in London - a lot of troubles with the communications system, the heat, exhaustion.' In fact, some members of the Green Team have felt so unwell they needed to seek the first aid at the SEM.
'I'm not sure how I feel,' said Vaschenko when asked what she thinks of the team's result. 'I'm glad we finished all the fifteen rounds, but of course it's a disappointment. We talked about this happening and I believe we are all still proud of what we did and of the car we built.'