Alex Bull from Jayride.com’s transport team recently helped out at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a once in a lifetime opportunity to see transport innovation first-hand. Here, he shares his epic experience and his passion for transport.
I’ve always been pretty obsessed with transport. When I was young, my one and only interest was cars; the speed, the design, the idea of driving (especially because I couldn’t at that age, which made it all even more exciting!). I was so obsessed that my parents took me on birthday trips to the local dealerships of premium manufacturers such as Ferrari, BMW and Jaguar – for me, just seeing these expensive machines up close was a birthday treat in itself! I used to dream about hosting TV programme Top Gear, or being a test driver for Bugatti – anything that would get me closer to cars.
As I got older, I became more interested in the engineering side, often pondering questions like ‘how exactly does an engine work?’. I was so interested in transport and cars that every decision in my academic life was made towards better understanding how cars work; I loved studying physics at school as it helped me to understand the movement and energy of vehicles, and I chose Automotive Engineering at university to go deeper into how vehicles are built and work.
This has led me to some exciting job opportunities over the years, including being an Automotive Intern for TE Connectivity, a global electronics manufacturer, and working at a car parts retailer in my hometown in the UK, and now working at Jayride.com’s Sydney HQ, where I work as part of the transport data team making sure our suppliers’ data is updated on our website. It’s an ideal job for someone like me – I get to indulge my love of transport every day!
An Aussie Outback adventure
It’s not only through work that I get to indulge my passion, though – I take every opportunity I can to see first-hand the innovation that’s going on in the industry. In October I was lucky enough to embark on a crazy adventure through the Australian Outback as a volunteer in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the race, which happens every two years. It’s a gruelling event where teams from all over the world build solar-powered cars and race them through the Outback. Starting in Darwin, the winner is the first team to cross the finish line in Adelaide, some 3,000 kilometres later! It may seem like a completely crazy challenge, but it’s incredible to see how people think outside of the box and challenge the norms of travelling, especially in such an isolated and challenging landscape as the Aussie Outback.
Alex takes a ride in the TAFE SA Solar Spirit at the final campsite, 100km North of Adelaide
The teams are mostly from colleges and universities from more than 30 countries around the world who spend two years designing and building these cars, testing ingenuity, teamwork, coping under pressure, and strategic decisions to ensure they are prepared for anything during the race. It’s the technology and innovation that excited me the most about being there; I have deep interest in the future of transport, and this event is a showcase of what can be achieved when great minds come together.
I was lucky enough to be part of the event as ‘observer’, which meant that I travelled with teams in their escort vehicle, following the solar cars as they travelled along the Stuart Highway. The days were very long and hot, and involved camping at rest stops in the Outback, authentic Aussie bush cooking and no showers for days. It’s definitely an experience I’ll cherish forever! I’ll never forget the incredible stargazing we did during the rest stops, the blazing and continuous 40-degree heat or a few of the more unlucky events like collapsing tents during huge downpours and burnt camp food!
What does the future hold?
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is important as it proves that many different vehicles, built all over the world with different techniques and technologies, can be powered solely by the sun and successfully drive on normal roads. The future of transport may not entirely be solar powered, but the event goes to show what can be achieved when you put great minds together and think outside the box.
Alex with the wonderful UITM ECO PHOTON team from Malaysia at the second control stop (Daly Waters)
In terms of the future of transport, who knows. There’s a lot of talk about autonomous vehicles right now, which are being trialled and tested and in some cases operated in cities across the globe. But understanding how a busy city can incorporate autonomous vehicles while minimising risks is the crucial element. I personally think electric cars are a great option – with no emissions, minimal maintenance, and quiet and comfortable driving, they’re ideal for city commuting (especially when so many cities are beginning to talk about a zero emissions zones in inner-cities in a bid to cut air pollution), not to mention that some of the models can be damn fast!
I truly believe that the future of transport will be about seamless, A to B service, removing the hassles and stresses of transportation. I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m absolutely sure I’ll never lose my passion for transport.