Racing on solar energy

Joris builds a car to improve the world

Student Joris Raaphorst is building a Nuna9, a car that runs on solar energy to race straight through Australia.

“I cannot tell everything about how we build the car. Some things need to stay secret, because we want to be one step ahead to the opposition of course”, says Joris Raaphorst. The fourth-year student Industrial Design Engineering is participating in building the Nuna9. That is a car made for the World Solar Challenge (WSC), a race in which universities follow a route of three thousand kilometres through Australia in their self-built solar energy cars. This year the vehicle is built at the Polymer Science Park in Zwolle, an innovation centre for plastic technology, co-founded by Windesheim. How do you make sure the Nuna9 becomes the fastest? Joris: “It needs to be as light and as aerodynamic as possible. Then it won’t need too much energy and will still be able to drive long distances.”

Better world
An important goal of the competition is stimulating development of sustainable technology. “We need specific batteries, for example, so that manufacturers are pushed to do research on this. Eventually this could lead to the development of better batteries.”

Joris, who studied a minor sustainable technology during his education programme, finds it important to contribute to more sustainable technology: “We all know the world is not going to hold on much longer if we continue the way we do now. This project shows that it is possible to better the world. If we all help, we can make the world a better place.”

Mostly (technical) universities from all over the world participate in the biennial competition, which took place for the first time thirty years ago. Joris participates in building the car of the TU Delft.

He participates for ‘only’ three months in the six-headed team that works on the car fulltime for a year and spent the past half a year working on the design. The mechanics students calculated all the forces and aerodynamics students calculated the ideal shapes. “But the designing of the car is quite different from actually building it”, Joris laughs. “At that moment so many other problems have to be conquered.” They work with carbon fibres. “Very light and thus ideal materials. I salve a mould with resin and I put in a layer of carbon fibres. On top of that a layer of foam and then another layer of carbon fibres. A sandwich of materials, so to say.”

This needs to be as neat as possible. After that there is the task to take out as much heavy resin as possible, so that the whole weighs as little as possible, but is still strong and well put together. “How we do that is secret. But this is where the biggest challenge is: at every millimetre where it does not connect properly, resin is left behind. Sometimes a plate needs to be redone because a corner hasn’t been done right, as these are the details that decide whether you win or lose.”

Drawing on a beer coaster
How did Joris get this internship? “The TU Delft needed extension for building. It seemed like an interesting internship to me. I went to Delft for an application round and I was one of two lucky people to be chosen. The other is Gino Visser, a student Environmental Science from Leeuwarden.” Joris and Gino are the only students from a University of Applied Sciences in this group. “The other team members are university students and have a different way of thinking.” They are much quicker in thinking of theoretical solutions. I grab a coaster to draw out the things they do in their head. But sometimes they are over-analytical. I immediately look practically at the materials and the way they need to be positioned. And I see the problems they don’t see. This way we complete each other perfectly. I find this very useful, because you learn to deal with different levels.”

First prize
The expectations are high, because the TU Delft has won first prize many times before. In October, the race will be held. Joris is unfortunately not allowed to come to Australia, because this is only for the year team. “I hope I will be busy graduating by that time. But who knows, maybe I can participate for a year sometime. The competition inspires me to continue building a sustainable world.”

Jitse Schipper
Photo: Herman Engbers



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