American Solar Challenge 2021

The American Solar Challenge is on again in July/August 2021, and will (per an ASC announcement) be following the Mountain Route on the Santa Fe Trail (see my previous post series). It is going to be a trifle warm.

The Mountain Route crosses the 7,840 ft (2,390 m) Raton Pass. The “big climb” at the 2018 American Solar Challenge (following the Oregon Trail) was 902 m in 35 km (2.6%). Starting from Trinidad, CO, the Raton Pass has a similar climb of 558 m in 22 km (2.5%), with a maximum grade of 6% on the steepest sections.


A Narnian Timeline

I’ve been on a bit of a Narnia binge recently. Continuing that theme, here is a timeline of the Chronicles of Narnia (click to zoom). The Terran time axis has varying scales (although piecewise linear), since 5 of the 7 Narnia books (53% of Narnian history) are set during 1940–1942. For simplicity, I also assume a piecewise linear mapping of Narnian time to Terran time (see graph below), although the text of the books indicate that the mapping is more complex than that. For Narnian events in the chart, only the vertical position has meaning (the sideways curve is only there to create space).

The Crucifixion of Jesus is included as a significant Terran event, since its Narnian parallel is the key event of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some scholars date this to the year 30, rather than 33.

The chart was produced using R. The curved lines are plotted with colours from colorRampPalette(). Images were added using png::readPNG, as.raster(), and rasterImage(), with circles using plotrix::draw.circle(). For the title, the extrafont package was used.


Solar Car META-Teams

In this post, I want to distinguish solar car teams from what I’m calling “meta-teams.” The core team is made up of the students who build and race the car, including the sponsorship, media, and logistics sub-teams. The meta-team is everybody else.


The team from Delft celebrating their 2017 WSC win in the fountain (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Alumni

The most important part of the meta-team may be the team alumni. These former members of the team have valuable experience, and often retain a strong interest in the ongoing team. Indeed, in some cases, “you can’t chase them off with a stick” (to quote one of the Dutch teams). Tapping into alumni expertise is especially important in the Dutch model, where each race cycle starts with a brand-new team of novices.

Many solar car teams would probably benefit from improved alumni relations – things like a database of alumni contact details, or regular social events with alumni.

Recruitment Panels

The Dutch model of solar car teams also includes a formal recruitment process for the new team. The recruitment panel includes alumni, but it may also contain professional HR staff brought in for the occasion.

Hands-On Sponsors

Solar car teams all rely on sponsorship, but some sponsors are more hands-on than others. In-kind sponsors offering a product or service may also provide training in using that product or service, and this can be extremely valuable.

Sponsors may also provide business help. In 2017, the team from Delft had their battery pack stranded in Singapore; the airline refused to carry it further. This could have been a catastrophe, but they reached out to their major sponsor, who was able to help them negotiate a solution involving road transport to another city, and a flight with another airline.


An artist’s view of Delft’s 2017 emergency battery flight (photo: Vattenfall Solar Team)

Faculty Advisors and University Support Staff

Faculty advisors are university staff who provide technical engineering advice. Some teams rely on them more than others, but the WSC’s requirement for a “certifying engineer” means that every team needs at least one.

Complementing the faculty advisors are university support staff who provide help with sponsorship, media, and logistics. The App State team lists university support staff and faculty advisors together on their website.

Coaches

Coaches accompany teams into the field, and assist with issues of team dynamics and morale. Dutch teams have especially benefited from having coaches.


The late Wubbo Ockels coached the team from Delft for several years (photo: Jorrit Lousberg); Erik is the coach for Top Dutch Solar Racing (photo: TDSR)

Photographers and Other Technical Specialists

Several teams will bring in a professional photographer for the race. These have included Jorrit Lousberg (Vattenfall/Delft), Hans-Peter van Velthoven (Vattenfall/Delft), Bart van Overbeeke (Eindhoven), and Jerome Wassenaar (Twente).

Other technical specialists are also sometimes brought in. In 2013, Solar Team Twente took along a weatherman from the Joint Meteorological Group of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In 2015, the Belgian team took along a similar expert from the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (who also blogged his experiences).

Who is on your meta-team?


European solar car teams

Although the World Solar Challenge and the Sasol Solar Challenge have been cancelled, the American Solar Challenge and a special iLumen European Solar Challenge are going ahead. Here, as a placeholder, is a list of 24 European teams from 11 countries (including Turkey) – 15 Challengers and 9 Cruisers. None of them have registered for ASC, but about half of them are likely to compete in iESC in September (others might participate in the Albi Eco Race in October). You may wish to follow the official iESC social media at        (click on the icons).

In recent news, PUT from Poland have revealed their Cruiser Klara, Chalmers have revealed a tadpole render, Twente have announced that they are also building a three-wheeler (called Red Horizon), and HUST have revealed a three-fairing design.


NL  Vattenfall Solar Team (Delft) 

Challenger (new car: Nuna11) – this year will be the last year that Delft partners with Vattenfall. They have been recruiting for the 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge.

Previously, Delft won WSC 13; won WSC 15; won WSC 17; came 12th at WSC 19; won SASOL 14; won SASOL 16; and won SASOL 18. Their team number (3) is a long-standing tradition.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

FR  Eco Solar Breizh 

Symmetric challenger (Heol) – they are regulars at the Albi Eco Race.

Previously, Breizh came 14th at Abu Dhabi 15; came 7th at iESC 18; came 5th at Albi Eco 18; came 3rd at Albi Eco 19; and won MSRC 19.


picture credit (click image to zoom)

NL  Top Dutch Solar Racing 

Challenger (new car) – I am not sure what their plans are, exactly.

Previously, Top Dutch came 4th at WSC 19 and came 3rd at iESC 20.

 
Left: credit / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

IT  Futuro Solare Onlus 

Cruiser (new car: Archimede 2.0) – they have an exciting new design concept and are working on construction (see also this video).

Previously, Futuro participated at iESC 16 and participated at iESC 18.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

BE  Agoria Solar Team / KU Leuven 

Challenger (new car) – they are building a new car, and planning their next racing adventure.

Previously, Agoria came 6th at WSC 13; came 5th at WSC 15; came 3rd at WSC 17; won WSC 19; came 3rd at Abu Dhabi 15; came 2nd at iESC 16; came 6th at iESC 18; came 1st and 6th at iESC 20; and won Carrera Solar Atacama 18. Their team number (8) is a long-standing tradition.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

IT  Onda Solare 

Four-seat cruiser (Emilia 4 LT) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) in 2018, and they have written up their design process here, but they have since made substantial improvements to the vehicle, including to the aerodynamics, suspension, battery, and solar panels. There is also an unusual open tail.

Previously, Onda came 10th at WSC 13; participated in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; won the ASC 18 Cruiser class; came 10th at Abu Dhabi 15; and came 6th at iESC 16. Their team number (9) is taken from the SS 9, the highway through Bologna, which was once the Roman Via Aemilia (hence also the name of their vehicle).

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

11  DE  Hochschule Bochum Solar Car Team 

Two-seat cruiser (thyssenkrupp SunRiser) – for the 2019 World Solar Challenge, Bochum improved their sexy 2-seater SunRiser, which came 3rd in 2015. They also have a solar buggy team. Their current plans appear to involve a hybrid solar-hydrogen vehicle.

Previously, Bochum came 2nd in the WSC 13 Cruiser class; came 3rd in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; came 2nd in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; came 4th in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; came 3rd, 4th, and 5th at iESC 16; came 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; came 1st and 7th at Albi Eco 18; and came 1st and 2nd at Albi Eco 19.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom)

12  GB  Cambridge University Eco Racing 

Four-seat cruiser (Helia) – they will be staying in the UK this year.

Previously, Cambridge came 22nd at WSC 15; participated in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; and came 10th at iESC 16.

 
Left: Nigel / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

20  GB  Durham University Electric Motorsport 

Asymmetric challenger (Ortus) – Durham are the UK’s premier team. They have been upgrading their car after racing in Australia in 2019. They are one of the few teams to report a CdA value (0.107 for Ortus). They displayed great initiative by running their own Ouston Solar Challenge when Covid-19 prevented their travel to iESC 2020.

Previously, Durham came 27th at WSC 15; participated at WSC 17; and came 14th at WSC 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom)

21  NL  Solar Team Twente 

Three-wheel challenger (new car: Red Horizon) – they are building a three-wheeler this year.

Previously, Twente came 3rd at WSC 13; came 2nd at WSC 15; came 5th at WSC 17; came 17th at WSC 19; won iESC 16; came 1st and 2nd at iESC 18; and came 2nd and 4th at iESC 20. Their team number (21) is a pun and a wish for success in the race (“Twente-One”).

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

22  SE  MDH Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – I am not sure what their plans are, exactly.

Previously, MDH participated at WSC 17 and participated at WSC 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

23  SE  Halmstad University Solar Team 

Three-wheel challenger (new car: Heart 4) – they have revealed a three-fairing car, which they will be racing in Sweden.

Previously, HUST participated at WSC 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

31  CH  Solar Energy Racers 

Asymmetric challenger (SER-3) – they raced their SER-3 in South Africa and Australia. However, they still have their SER-2.

Previously, SER-3 came 5th at WSC 13; came 15th at WSC 19; came 2nd at ASC 16; came 11th at Abu Dhabi 15; came 3rd at SASOL 18; and came 8th at iESC 16.

 
Left: credit / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom)

34  TR  Istanbul Technical University (ITU) 

Challenger (B.O.W.) – the name of their old car (“B.O.W.”) stood for “Bees On Wheels,” from the ITU logo. I am not sure of their current plans.

Previously, ITU came 17th at WSC 13; participated at WSC 17; came 7th at iESC 16; and came 7th at iESC 20.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

40  NL  Solar Team Eindhoven 

Cruiser (new car) – after building four “solar family cars,” their focus for 2021 is a Self-sustaining House On Wheels.

Previously, Eindhoven won the WSC 13 Cruiser class; won the WSC 15 Cruiser class; won the WSC 17 Cruiser class; won the WSC 19 Cruiser class; came 7th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; and came 1st and 2nd in the iESC 20 Cruiser class. Their team number (40) is the Eindhoven telephone area code.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

43  GB  Ardingly Ifield Solar 

Two-seat cruiser (Ardingly Solar Car) – this high-school team came 6th in the 2018 iESC Cruiser class, and have upgraded the car since then. However, their focus does not seem to be on racing at this time.

Previously, Ardingly participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 19 Adventure class; came 6th in the iESC 18 Cruiser class; and participated at Albi Eco 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom)

45  PL  Lodz Solar Team 

Four-seat cruiser (Eagle Two) – this team has some nice (Polish) news coverage here. They are working on improving their car.

Previously, Lodz participated in the WSC 15 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 17 Cruiser class; participated in the WSC 19 Cruiser class; came 5th at SASOL 16; and won the iESC 18 Cruiser class. Their team number (45) is a tradition since 2015.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

46  SE  JU Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – they have announced that they are aiming for the 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge.

Previously, JU came 20th at WSC 13; came 15th at WSC 15; came 8th at WSC 17; and came 10th at WSC 19. Their team number (46) is the Swedish national telephone prefix.

 
Left: Anthony Dekker / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

51  SE  Chalmers Solar Team 

Three-wheel (tadpole) challenger (new car: Sköll) – they were the first Challenger-class team to reveal a render for their new car.

Previously, Chalmers came 21st at WSC 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

70  DE  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Challenger (new car: Sonnenwagen 3) – this team did very well in 2019, in spite of being blown off the road. They have begun production of a new car.

Previously, Aachen participated at WSC 17; came 6th at WSC 19; came 3rd at iESC 18; and came 5th and 8th at iESC 20. Their team number (70) is the number they raced with in 2017.

 
Left: credit / Right: Anthony Dekker (click images to zoom – OLD PICS)

84  TR  Solar Team Solaris (Dokuz Eylül University) 

Asymmetric challenger (S10) – they did some testing before ESC (which they were sadly unable to attend). They have not mentioned building a new car.

Previously, Solaris participated in the WSC 13 Adventure class; came 25th at WSC 15; came 18th at WSC 19; came 9th at iESC 16; came 2nd at Albi Eco 18; and came 2nd at MSRC 19.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

899  TR  ESTU Solar Team (ex Anadolu) 

Challenger (new car: Sunatolia III) – this is the team formerly known as Anadolu. Their exact plans are unclear.

Previously, ESTU came 19th at WSC 15; came 2nd at SASOL 14; and participated at SASOL 16.


picture credit (click image to zoom – OLD PIC)

900  PL  PUT Solar Dynamics (Poznań University of Technology) 

Two-seat cruiser (new team with car: Klara) – they have revealed their car, which weighs 750 kg and has an 18.5 kWh battery. This (Polish) video describes their project.

 
Left: credit / Right: credit (click images to zoom)

901  EE  Solaride  

Two-seat cruiser (new team) – this new team from Estonia hopes to build a Cruiser. They are based in the city of Tartu.


picture credit (click image to zoom)

This page last updated 17:37 on 10 April 2021 AEST.


Four new species from 2020

In spite of Covid-19, last year saw the description of several hundred new species of plants and animals. The image above (click to zoom) shows four of them.

Top left: The Yoknapatawpha darter, Etheostoma faulkneri (male shown above female) is found only in the Yocona River of Mississippi. It was recently distinguished from the closely related Etheostoma raneyi found in nearby rivers.

Top right: Dendropsophus bilobatus (image credit M. Ferrão, J. Moravec, J. Hanken, A.P. Lima) is a small Bolivian tree frog distinguished by the shape of its vocal sac and its characteristic mating call.

Bottom left: Platylestes kirani (male only shown; image credit Rison Thumboor) is a damselfly from the coastal wetlands of Kerala, South India.

Bottom right: The northern Western Ghats vine snake, Ahaetulla borealis (image credit Geoish) is a tree snake from the Western Ghats of India. It was declared to be a species in its own right after a subdivision of Ahaetulla nasuta.


iESC Special 2021 Edition!

In breaking news, there will be a special 2021 edition of the 24-hour iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) on September 18-19 this year. Thirteen teams have already confirmed participation.

For more details, follow the official race social media at        (click on the icons).


Solar Racing Basics: Map

Finishing up the analysis of my Solar Racing Basics Poster (see this tag), the central portion of the poster shows the route of the World Solar Challenge (although there will be no WSC until 2023). The race traditionally starts in Darwin and finishes in Adelaide, with nine compulsory 30-minute control stops in Katherine, Daly Waters, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Alice Springs, Kulgera, Coober Pedy, Glendambo, and Port Augusta (solid white dots on the map). There is also rest time between 17:00 and 8:00 each night.

To read more about the route, see this detailed post.


Click to zoom / Image credits: Agoria Solar Team (wind tunnel), American Solar Challenge (chassis), Solar Team Eindhoven (Cruiser car), mostdece.blogspot.com (battery & motor), Vattenfall Solar Team (race strategy), public domain (lower right 3), Anthony Dekker (remaining 7).


Solar Racing Basics: Media


Click to zoom / Public domain image

Continuing the analysis of my Solar Racing Basics Poster (see this tag), documenting the construction and racing of the car is important for the sponsors, for the fans, and for the team itself. Teams that want good sponsorship need a good media subteam. Good media helps a team convince potential sponsors that they are legitimate, and can provide a quid pro quo to existing sponsors. Solar Team Twente from the Netherlands is an example of a team with good media. In particular, they have a website and six kinds of social media:  .

Often the media subteam includes a specialist photographer, such as Jorrit Lousberg (Vattenfall/Delft), Hans-Peter van Velthoven (Vattenfall/Delft), Bart van Overbeeke (Eindhoven), Jerome Wassenaar (Twente), or Joseph Xu (Michigan).

In addition, media subteams will often “place” stories in local newspapers. It’s big news in Springfield, population 24,000 (to pick an imaginary example), that a young man or woman from the town is off to race a solar car on the other side of the world. Equally, it’s big news for Dutch-language media in Australia, such as SBS, that Dutch solar car teams have arrived in the country (and ditto for Italian, Turkish, and several other languages).

Media can also act as damage limitation in a crisis. In 2017, the Persian Gazelle 4 car from the University of Tehran was heavily damaged in transit, and was unable to race, leaving the team with very little to show for all their hard work. In 2019, NunaX from Vattenfall/Delft Solar Team was totally destroyed by fire during the race, but the team could still point to the copious media of the car and say, with justified pride, “we built that”:  .

It is, of course, important that teams not make classic media errors, such as constantly changing social media “handles,” retiring social media channels without proper announcement, not keeping the website up to date, or posting embarrassing photographs that you wouldn’t want a potential sponsor to see.

To read more:


Current NASA DSN tasking

My visualisation of current NASA Deep Space Network tasking as per eyes.nasa.gov/dsn (click image to zoom). Several Mars orbiters are lending a hand to transfer Perseverance imagery from the Martian surface, while other space science is going on as normal.

The chart is for 2 PM Australian time, with the Sun overhead in Tidbinbilla, Australia, and Mars overhead in the 7 PM evening sky in Goldstone, California. The respective skies looked like this (click to zoom):

Later in the afternoon, as Mars rose in the sky, Tidbinbilla began to share the load of Martian traffic. As Jupiter and the Sun rose over Madrid, MDSCC prepared to take over traffic from Juno.