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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute



Solar Car aims to undertake ‘The Ouston Solar Car Challenge’

(14 September 2020)

The Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM) team gets ready to race their solar car, ‘Ortus’, at Ouston Airfield.

The solar car has been designed and manufactured at Durham University by a team of students motivated to push their engineering skills and the latest technology to the limit.

Following their success at the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) in Australia, where DUEM secured the best British finish in twenty years, the team had originally hoped to compete in the 2020 iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC); the only 24 hour endurance race in the world for solar cars that takes place in Belgium every two years.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team made the difficult decision to withdraw from the race just last week. However DUEM have decided to set their own ground-breaking challenge.

Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, they have worked tirelessly to improve and modify Ortus to ensure she is race ready and could perform competitively at iESC. This new challenge will show off the hard work and effort the team has put into Ortus,

Their goal is to complete the distance from Durham to Circuit Zolder in Belgium (where iESC is taking place at the same time) and beyond, within 24 hours. As the team cannot partake in the race itself, they’re hoping to take part in spirit by doing the distance to the track. The 537 miles will be driven at RAF Ouston Airfield, with the team providing live updates as to where they’d be if they were on public roads. There will be 6 drivers racing the car at RAF Ouston.

‘Ortus’ is made from carbon-fibre and uses a single, custom-made, in-wheel motor. It weighs just 178 kg and cruises on the highway using less power than a hairdryer. Its shape makes its aerodynamic drag comparable to just the wing mirrors on a regular car!

Whilst COVID-19 still poses a real challenge for the team to be able to complete their ambitious goals, DUEM’s future remains bright. With plans to improve Ortus further, compete in new international challenges and begin designing their next car, the DUEM team will have plenty to do in 2021 and beyond.

It was a real shame to have to withdraw from the iLumen European Solar Challenge 2020 - everyone has worked incredibly hard this year to push Ortus to its limits, and we were all really looking forward to competing against the other European teams in Belgium. However, by doing OSC, we hope to be there in spirit; not even a global pandemic can stop a solar car team from taking on new challenges!’ - Isaac Rudden, Team Principal

‘We really wanted to do an event to showcase the excellent work we’ve done this year, as well as thank our amazing sponsors for the support they’ve given us - we wouldn’t be where we are today if not for their input. By taking on the Ouston Solar Challenge we’re continuing to show the world the awesome power of renewable technology and alternative transport!’ - Tommy Osrin, Head of Sponsorship

Find out more about the solar car at 

Durham University Electric Motorsport

Durham University Electric Motorsport are a team of innovative university students, who design and build solar powered cars which they race in international events against other world-leading solar teams. By doing this, they aim to push for a more sustainable future orientated around renewable energy.

The DUEM team includes students from a variety of degree backgrounds, from Business and Finance to Engineering. Students from undergraduate first years to PhD students get involved with every aspect of the society; from the practical manufacturing work to the computational theory.

This is a student led project, supported by the Department of Engineering, but open to students from across the university; with most of the work done being extracurricular. This project bridges the gap between the theory learnt in lectures and the practical aspects of engineering.

The aerodynamic properties were developed by CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and confirmed by scale model wind tunnel testing. Using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining and a series of layups, the full-size tub was manufactured.

Most of the manufacturing takes place in Durham, such as the aerodynamic body and chassis. The project involves local businesses such as NE Enhance for the car’s custom vinyl wrap.

This provides opportunities for future engineers to take part in a multi-disciplinary project and gain valuable experience – previous members have gone on to work at Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, and McLaren.

DUEM’s team would not be complete without its Business Team, who are constantly promoting DUEM via platforms such as social media. They also work in Durham’s wider community through outreach projects to local schools, where they encourage school children to engage in STEM subjects and commit to a greener and more sustainable future. The Business Team are integral in looking after sponsors and finding new ones who can provide DUEM with exciting opportunities and a competitive edge in international solar challenges.

Brief Summary of Ortus

There have been substantial improvements from the previous car (DUSC 2017), with a 28% reduction in weight and 24% less drag.

The car is driven by members of the team, chosen for their size and endurance driving ability.

The car is a catamaran design, giving it a wide wheel base and ensuring it is as stable as possible. The car features a composite roll hoop (made from carbon fibre and kevlar), giving maximum protection for the driver whilst keeping the weight low.

The silicon solar array charges lithium-ion batteries located in one of the car’s two fairings. The other fairing houses the driver occupant cell and the in-wheel motor.

It can drive over 350km on a single charge - that’s further than driving from London to York!