Economic Times | By Bharath Joshi, ET Bureau | 26 October, 2015 |
BENGALURU: Days before RV College of Engineering (RVCE) students left for the prestigious World Solar Challenge in Australia, IT czar NR Narayana Murthy told them to brace for Murphy’s Law to play its full role: If anything can go wrong, it will. And it did go wrong for Soleblaze, the single-seater solar car that a 20-member team toiled hard for two years to build. On October 16, two days before the race, Soleblaze was to undergo dynamic scrutiny -a verification of the car’s safety and regulation compliance through actual driving. What dashed the hopes of students was that the 5 kWh storage battery, a critical part of the car, arrived there from Bengaluru on the day of the scrutiny in a damaged condition. Soleblaze could not take part in the race. Backed by a host of corporates, including electric car pioneer Chetan Maini, the Rs 2-crore Soleblaze was India’s only entry in the competition -a 3,000 km race from Darwin to Adelaide. Firms such as Wipro, TCS % and SunEdison also aided the car’s development.
“All of us should stand up and cheer them. For students of a local engineering college to apply what they learned in class to design something like this and go through the rigmarole of getting parts from different parts of the world is extraordinary . We have nothing to feel diffident. I’m proud of them,” said Murthy , one of India’s most respected philanthropists who gave RVCE students `30 lakh for the car’s development. T he Infosys cofounder believes Soleblaze can, with more effort, be developed into a viable solar car. In fact, Silicon Valley majors Apple, Google, Tesla and Uber are looking at the automobile sector as the next space for innovation. “A solar car isn’t something American universities have not made. What matters is that this one made it to Australia, with a car that was competition-worthy,” he said.
The shipping company 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 is highly possible that it was damaged during transit,” said Vikram R Nath, a mechanical engineering student who led the team. The exact cause of delay in shipment is not yet clear. “We couldn’t control our emotions. We cried,” RVCE associate professor S Mahendra Kumar told ET from Adelaide.”The University of Michigan offered us its battery but it wasn’t compatible with our system.” The students learned that other universities are “at least 25 years ahead in building solar cars,” Kumar said. Dutch team Nuon claimed victory by finishing the race in 37.56 hours. Murthy urged students to plan early for the next attempt. “They should go to Australia three months in advance and run the car to get enough experience.Time is of essence.”- Courtesy