According to Kirsten Bouwman, team manager of the Solar Team, there are plenty of plans to advance the development of the solar car. The problem: in the current set-up, the team simply does not get around to it. 'We are in the current cycle of eighteen months with tight deadlines, after which we hand over the work to the next team. We innovate mainly on a small scale. We don't have time to think big.'
In order to think big and not leave ideas in the pile, the Solar Team would like to form a club of enthusiastic students in the coming months under the title innovation team. They will come to work alongside the current team and focus on projects that are more timeless and focus mainly on innovation. 'In the broadest sense of the word. In aerodynamics, but especially in electronics, there is a big pile of ideas where we can make gains. These are incredibly cool ideas to take up, but they don't fit into our current agenda and the risk is too great to bet on them, because you don't know beforehand whether something will work.'
Bouwman points out that Delft and Leuven - formidable competitors - have had innovation teams in place for some time. 'For example, the team in Eindhoven drove a solar camper van across Europe. The Belgian innovation team devised a fin on the car, which allowed them to sail in the wind, so to speak. You can't expect that kind of project from us in the short term yet, but for the future we hope for it. The team may also bet on a big race - similar to Australia - in the even-numbered years. Delft and Leuven have been competing in a race in South Africa for some time in those years. The race in Morocco has created a desire among many teams worldwide to race against each other in the even-numbered years as well.'
What also makes a place on the team to be formed interesting is that combining it with studies is easier. Bouwman: 'In the Solar Team, we change positions every eighteen months. We want the innovation team to run from September to September. We are aiming for about nine or ten people for the first time. In time, we would like to make the team bigger. In the summer, we will start testing and simulating full-time with the current team. The aim is to involve the innovation team already in that, so they can get a taste of the atmosphere and make a nice start in September.'
Solar Team Twente has started preparations for Australia, where it will race again at the end of October. Last Monday, production of the new car, which will be unveiled on Wednesday 8 March, started. The Twente team hopes to compete with the top teams Down Under, although Bouwman does not want to make any predictions. 'From the Japanese team, for example, we haven't heard anything for three years. In Morocco we beat some strong opponents, but whether that makes us favourites right away remains to be seen.'