KU Leuven team wins World Solar Challenge for first time


The demanding event sees university teams from around the world racing more than 3,000 kilometres across Australia in a solar-powered vehicle

Joyful welcome

KU Leuven’s Agoria Solar Team sailed first over the finish line in the World Solar Challenge last week, becoming the first Belgian team to ever take the prestigious title. The challenging university event takes place every two years and sees self-made solar-powered cars racing more than 3,000 miles across Australia.

Expectations were high as the team won gold at last year’s Carrera Solar Atacama in Chile. Still, Agoria impressed spectators by closing a 43-minute gap on the second-to-last day.

Engineering students have been working on the car, called the BluePoint, for 15 months. A joyful welcome awaited them at the finish line, one of the most “dramatic days” in the race’s history, according to organisers.

“It feels incredible to be standing here at the finish line as world champions,” said team manager Willem-Jan Claes. “This year, we focused on the reliability and finishing touches of the car, and that strategy has paid off.”

Competition up in flames

At the start of the final day of the five-day race, it was clear that the final stretch would be neck-and-neck, which is not usually the case for the Challenger Class – the top class of the three classes of vehicles. Agoria had closed a 43-minute gap to start the final day at just 2m27s behind the leader, the Vattenfall Solar Team of TU Delft.

While the team is given a huge amount of credit for that achievement, they ultimately won the race by knowing exactly how far they could push the car to maintain reliability. The Vattenfall car caught on fire on the final day and burned to ashes at the side of the road.

First place then came easy to the KU Leuven team, which took the lead 250 kilometres before the finish line. The team noted that constant testing of the BluePoint over the last year gave them enough data to know exactly how fast for how long they could go.

Following the Flemish team were the Tokai University Solar Car Team, which took second, and the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, which came in third place. The BluePoint will now be further refined and tested and is due to race again next year in the Carrera Solar Atacama in Chile.

Photo courtesy Agoria Solar Team