2019 World Solar Challenge: the route

Following on from my route map above for the World Solar Challenge (click to zoom), here are some personal route notes (revised from 2015 and 2017). The WSC has confirmed that the control stops are as indicated.

The graph below (click to zoom) shows approximate altitudes (taken from the Stanford 2013 elevation profile for this version of the graph). The highest point on the route (about 730 m) is 20 km north of Alice Springs, although the steepest hill (Hayes Creek Hill, summit 203 m) is about 170 km from Darwin.

Darwin – Start

Solar Team Eindhoven’s Stella starts the race in 2013 (photo: WSC)

The city of Darwin marks the start of the race.

Katherine – 322 km – Control Stop 1

En route to Katherine in 2011 (photo: UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team)

The town of Katherine (on the Katherine River) is a gateway to Nitmiluk National Park. It also serves the nearby Royal Australian Air Force base. The average maximum October temperature is 37.7°C.

Daly Waters – 588 km – Control Stop 2

The famous Daly Waters pub (photo: Lakeyboy)

Daly Waters is a small town with a famous pub. The Eindhoven team left a shirt there in 2015.

Dunmarra – 633 km

University of Toronto’s Blue Sky Solar team leaves the Dunmarra control stop in 2013 (photo: Blue Sky Solar)

Dunmarra once served the Overland Telegraph Line. Today it is little more than a roadhouse, motel, and caravan park. In previous races, this was a control stop.

Tennant Creek – 987 km – Control Stop 3 / End of Cruiser Stage 1

Tennant Creek (photo: Tourism NT)

Tennant Creek (population about 3,500) is a small town serving nearby mines, cattle stations, and tourist attractions. Shopping can be done at Tennant Creek IGA.

For 2019, Tennant Creek marks the end of Cruiser Stage 1. Cruisers must arrive between 14:00 and 17:00 on Monday (with penalties for arriving after 14:00). Cruiser teams will spend the night, and have the option of metered recharging between sunset and 23:00.

Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve

Nuon Solar Team’s Nuna7 drives by the Devils Marbles in 2013 (photo: Jorrit Lousberg)

The 1,802 hectare Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve lies along both sides of the Stuart Highway about 100 km south of Tennant Creek. It is home to a variety of reptiles and birds, including the fairy martin (Petrochelidon ariel) and the sand goanna (Varanus gouldii). Race participants, of course, don’t have time to look (unless, by chance, this is where they stop for the night).

Barrow Creek – 1,210 km – Control Stop 4

Barrow Creek Roadhouse and surrounds (photo: Adrian Kitchingman)

Barrow Creek once served the Overland Telegraph Line and nearby graziers, but is now nothing but a roadhouse. The Telegraph Station is preserved as a historical site.

Ti Tree – 1,300 km

Nuon Solar Team’s Nuna6 drives by a fire between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs in 2011 (photo: Hans Peter van Velthoven)

Ti Tree is a small settlement north of Alice Springs. Much of the local area is owned by the Anmatyerre people. In previous races, this was a control stop.

Alice Springs – 1,493 km – Control Stop 5

Alice Springs (photo: Ben Tillman)

Alice Springs is roughly the half-way point of the race.

Kulgera – 1,766 km – Control Stop 6

Sunset near Kulgera (photo: “dannebrog”)

Kulgera is a tiny settlement 20 km from the NT / SA Border. The “pub” is Kulgera’s main feature.

NT / SA Border – 1,786 km

Entering South Australia (photo: Phil Whitehouse)

The sign at the Northern Territory / South Australia border shows Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa), the floral emblem of the state of South Australia.

Marla – 1,945 km

Road train at Marla (photo: Ed Dunens)

Marla (population 100) has a health centre, a roadhouse/motel/supermarket complex, a police station, and a small car repair workshop. The name of the town may be a reference to the mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) or to an Aboriginal word for “kangaroo.”

Coober Pedy – 2,178 km – Control Stop 7 / End of Cruiser Stage 2

Coober Pedy (photo: “Lodo27”)

The town of Coober Pedy is a major centre for opal mining. Because of the intense desert heat, many residents live underground.

For 2019, Coober Pedy marks the end of Cruiser Stage 2. Cruisers must arrive between 16:30 and 17:00 on Wednesday (with penalties for arriving after 16:30). Cruiser teams will spend the night, and have the option of metered recharging between sunset and 23:00.

Glendambo – 2,432 km – Control Stop 8

The Belgian team’s Indupol One leaves Glendambo control stop in 2013 (photo: Punch Powertrain Solar Team / Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Glendambo is another small outback settlement.

Port Augusta – 2,720 km – Control Stop 9

At Port Augusta, the highway reaches the Spencer Gulf. From this point, traffic becomes much heavier, which makes life more difficult for the drivers in the race.

Adelaide – Finish

Adelaide makes quite a contrast to that lengthy stretch of desert (photo: “Orderinchaos”)

Adelaide, the “City of Churches,” is the end of the race. The official finish line marks 3,022 km from Darwin.

Cruisers must arrive between 11:30 and 14:00 on Friday (with penalties for arriving after 11:30).


2019 World Solar Challenge update #6

Nine fantastic WSC cars from Delft: 2001–2017 (photos: Vattenfall Solar Team)

Here is a further update on the 49 teams (29 Challengers, 20 Cruisers, and no Adventure cars) from 23 countries aiming for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this coming October. Many teams are busy with construction, and below is my best understanding of the current team status, updated to match the official list of teams. Teams are sorted in team number order.

Recent BWSC news is that Bochum and Minnesota will be racing existing cars (thyssenkrupp SunRiser and Eos II). We have also seen new car reveals from HUST (pic) and Top Dutch (video). Promised new car reveals include Twente21 June, Blue Sky24 June, Lightyear One25 June, Kogakuin27 June, MDH29 June, Tehran2 July, Agoria3 July, Eindhoven4 July, HK IVE6 July, Michigan19 July, Aachen22 July, and JU30 August.

Meanwhile, 24 teams – Kentucky, Florida, CalSol (1st in 2017), PrISUm, Northwestern, Mich St, Illinois St, Illini, Waterloo, UBC, Principia, Missouri S&T, Ga Tech, Esteban (3rd in 2017), SIUE, Calgary, Rutgers, NJIT, UVA, NCSU, Purdue, Bridger, W Mich, and UPRM, including 1 WSC team – are preparing to attend FSGP 2019 in America this July.

US  Looks on track  University of Michigan 

Challenger (new car) – they were asking for name suggestions for the new car. They will reveal their car on 19 July.

Michigan BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they came 2nd in the Challenger class)

NL  Looks on track  Vattenfall Solar Team (Delft) 

Challenger (new car: Nuna X) – these are the champions formerly known as Nuon. See their 2017 aftermovie. They have named Tom Salden, Max van der Waals, and Maxime Croft as the new drivers. There has been no word on a car reveal.

CL  Hmmm  Antakari Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Intikallpa V) – no news on the new design as yet. There has been no word on a car reveal.

Antakari BWSC 2013 aftermovie (they participated in the Adventure class)

SG  Looks on track  Singapore Polytechnic 

Cruiser (new car: SunSPEC 6) – they have new motors and new doors. There has been no word on a car reveal.

NL  Looks on track  Top Dutch Solar Racing 

Challenger (new team) – their car is a GaAs bullet car resembling Michigan’s 2017 Novum. It looks so good that at this stage I’m calling them “best new team.” There are Dutch media reports about their plans. They revealed their car on 12 June (video).

AU  Looks on track  Adelaide University 

Challenger (Lumen II) – they have been doing a lot of testing.

BE  Looks on track  Agoria Solar Team (KU Leuven) 

Challenger (new car: BluePoint) – they have some (top secret) production moulds and are now sponsored by Agoria. They held a mock race with the old car. They will reveal their car on 3 July.

IT  Looks on track  Onda Solare 

Cruiser (Emilia 4) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) last year, and they have written up their design process here.

10  JP  Looks on track  Tokai University 

Challenger (new car: Tokai Challenger) – in January they hosted some visitors from Lodz. There has been no word on a car reveal.

11  DE  Looks on track  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

Cruiser (thyssenkrupp SunRiser ) – Bochum is not building a new WSC car, but are improving their sexy 2-seater SunRiser, which came 3rd in 2015. They also have a solar buggy team. As in previous years, they participated in the Albi Eco Race.

photo: Anthony Dekker

12  GB  Looks on track  Cambridge University 

Cruiser (new car: Helia) – they are busy with fabrication. There has been no word on a car reveal.

14  AU  Looks on track  Flinders University 

Cruiser (Investigator Mk III) – they are planning to improve aerodynamics, reduce weight, and make some other changes.

15  AU  Looks on track  Western Sydney Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Unlimited 3) – they won the American Solar Challenge last year (with their Challenger car Unlimited 2.0). There has been no word on a car reveal.

16  US  Looks on track  Stanford Solar Car Project 

Challenger (new car) – they have revealed their shell, which is a unique asymmetric bullet car.

18  MY  Looks on track  EcoPhoton / UiTM 

Challenger (new car: Tigris) – see their first and second vlogs (in Bahasa Malaysia). There has been no word on a car reveal.

20  GB  Looks on track  Durham University 

Challenger (new car: Ortus) – they have been doing outreach, as well as fabrication. There has been no word on a car reveal.

21  NL  Looks on track  Solar Team Twente 

Challenger (new car: Red E) – they are already producing regular vlogs (in Dutch), and have also produced an (English) day-in-the-life blog post. They have revealed their design, which is a GaAs catamaran (see the animation here). They will run a MOOC explaining the design of their 2015 car, and will reveal their 2019 car on (of course!) 21 June.

22  SE  Looks on track  MDH Solar Team 

Challenger (Viking) – they have been doing some testing. They will reveal their car on 29 June.

23  SE  Hmmm  Halmstad University Solar Team 

Challenger (new team with car: HeartTwo) – their render showed a bullet car, much like Michigan’s 2017 entry, although the chassis suggests outriggers of some kind (with the associated drag issues). They revealed their car on 11 June (pic), but without any really good pictures of the completed vehicle.

25  HK  Looks on track  Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

Cruiser (Sophie 6s) – they have been working on the car body. They will reveal their car on 6 July.

30  AU  Looks on track  Team Arrow 

Cruiser (ArrowSTF) – they have done a six-month-out update video.

Team Arrow 6 Months to #BWSC19 Update

31  CH  Looks on track  Solar Energy Racers 

Challenger (SER-3) – they raced this car in South Africa. They have packed a crate for Australia.

37  JP  Hmmm  Goko High School

Challenger (new car: Musoushin) – this high-school team always does very well. There has been no word on a car reveal.

39  SA  Hmmm  Estidamah 

Challenger (new car: Sana) – this was formerly the Seraaj team. There has been no word on a car reveal.

40  NL  Looks on track  Solar Team Eindhoven 

Cruiser (new car: Stella ?) – they have turned a shipping container into an oven for production and plan to reveal their car on July 4. The bottom shell just came out.

41  AU  Hmmm  Australian National University 

Challenger (new car: MTAA Gnowee) – the car is named after a woman in Aboriginal myth who carries the sun. They are working on their mould. There has been no word on a car reveal.

42  AU  Looks on track  TAFE SA 

Cruiser (SAV) – this time they will tow the trailer that belongs with the car.

43  GB  Looks on track  Ardingly College 

Cruiser (Ardingly Solar Car) – this high-school team came 6th in the iESC Cruiser class, but have upgraded the car since then. They participated in the Albi Eco Race.

44  US  Looks on track  Appalachian State University (Sunergy) 

Cruiser (ROSE) – as with some European teams, they have been testing at an airport. They are also upgrading the car.

45  PL  Looks on track  Lodz Solar Team 

Cruiser (Eagle Two) – they have produced a solar baby, which is a prize that lasts.

46  SE  Looks on track  JU Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Axelent) – they have a rolling test chassis, a body, and a battery. The body design seems long and thin. They will reveal their car on 30 August.

47  JP  Looks on track  Nagoya Institute of Technology 

Challenger (new car: Horizon Ace) – no news on the new design as yet. There has been no word on a car reveal.

public domain photo

49  TH  Hmmm  Siam Technical College 

Cruiser (new car: STC-3) – there have been no reports from them on social media. There has been no word on a car reveal.

Siam Technical College BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they raced in the Cruiser class)

51  SE  Looks on track  Chalmers Solar Team 

Challenger (new team with car: Alfrödull) – their final render resembles the car of the South African NWU team. They have a rolling chassis, and hope to ship the car in early June.

55  MA  Hmmm  Mines Rabat Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Eleadora 2) – their new catamaran will look like this. They have made a mould for their body, but the shipping date must be approaching fast.

63  SA  Hmmm  Alfaisal Solar Car Team 

Challenger (new car: Areej 1) – they had hoped to race at ASC 2018, but did not make it. There has been no word on a car reveal, but progress seems good, and they have both a rolling chassis and a bottom shell. The car name is a pun: AREG/Areej is an acronym for Alfaisal Renewable Energy Group but also means “the scent of a flowery garden” in Arabic.

66  US  Looks on track  Berkeley (CalSol) 

Cruiser (new car: Tachyon) – they have a shell. They will also attend FSGP 2019. There has been no word on a car reveal.

67  US  Looks like they might not make WSC  Golden State (UCLA / SMC) 

Cruiser (new team with car: The Golden Bear) – they have removed references to attending the WSC from their website. There has been no word on a car reveal.

70  DE  Looks on track  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Challenger (new car: Covestro Sonnenwagen) – they have a car-racing game app starring their car. They will reveal their car on 22 July.

75  AU  Looks on track  University of New South Wales / Sunswift 

Cruiser (Violet) – they have been testing their car on the track.

77  CA  Looks on track  University of Toronto (Blue Sky) 

Challenger (new car: Viridian) – they plan to unveil the new car on 24 June.

80  CN  Hmmm  Beijing Institute of Technology

Cruiser (new car: Sun Shuttle III). There has been no word on a car reveal.

photo: Anthony Dekker

82  KR  Looks on track  Kookmin University Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: WooRi) – no news on the new design as yet. There has been no word on a car reveal.

KUST BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they raced in the Challenger class)

84  TR  Hmmm  Dokuz Eylül University (Solaris) 

Challenger (new car: S10) – they expect the new car to be 44% more efficient than the 2015 model. There has been no word on a car reveal.

public domain photo

86  IN  Hmmm  Dyuti

Cruiser (new team with car: WattSun). There has been no word on a car reveal.

public domain photo

88  JP  Looks on track  Kogakuin University 

Challenger (new car) – they have announced their participation and held a “Solar Team Welcome Party” for new members. They will reveal their car on 27 June.

92  CA  Looks on track  ETS Quebec (Eclipse) 

Challenger (Éclipse X.I) – they came an excellent 3rd in the ASC, 102 minutes behind Western Sydney, and hope to go even faster with the new battery pack in their modified car. Planned improvements are summarised in their winter newsletter.

94  US  Looks on track  University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project 

Cruiser (Eos II) – they are building a new car, but will race their existing one for BWSC 19.

98  AU  Hmmm  ATN Solar Car Team 

Cruiser (new team) – their team is a mixture of lecturers and students from five universities across Australia. They have tested a model in a wind tunnel. There has been no word on a car reveal.

This page last updated 20:53 on 17 June 2019 AEST. Thanks to Nigel for several news items.

Cities in Flight by James Blish: a book review

Cities in Flight by James Blish (1955–1962)

I recently re-read the science fiction classic Cities in Flight by James Blish. The galaxy-wide sweep of this four-part novel had stuck with me ever since I first read it as a child – likewise the role of the city that has two names twice. However, I had forgotten that the story opens in what is now our present (2019, with a prelude set in 2013 and a brief reference to an event of 2018). It was interesting to compare Blish’s vision of the future with our reality – where are our planetary outposts, for example? On the other hand, we have already begun forgetting facts, and letting computers remember them for us. Likewise, we have already started automating all “ordinary” jobs.

As an aside, it should be noted that the fourth part of the story, A Clash of Cymbals, was published in the U.S. as the less poetic The Triumph of Time.

The basic premise of this four-part novel is that a newly invented antigravity spacedrive allows cities to lift off into the galaxy and become “Okies” or itinerant labourers. Depressed American steel towns, for example, take off in search of planets with ore that needs refining. People, however, are still people, and not all the cities are friendly.

The writing is classic “hard SF.” There are even differential equations! The plot is heavily influenced by Oswald Spengler and the overall view of humanity is rather pessimistic (though not as pessimistic as some other novels). The second of the four parts, A Life for the Stars, focuses on a teenager (unwillingly) joining the exodus of cities, and thus has the form of a “coming of age” novel. The fourth part, like Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero and some other classic “hard SF,” ends with a sort of Big Crunch/Big Bang (although, as usual, the philosophical implications of a cyclic universe are inadequately explored).

The timeline of the novel spans more than two millennia:

  • 2018: Jovian expedition (in progress as They Shall Have Stars begins)
  • 2019–2021: development of the “spindizzy” antigravity spacedrive and first interstellar expedition (They Shall Have Stars)
  • 2105: fall of the West; earth ruled by Stalinist “Bureaucratic State” (hinted at in They Shall Have Stars)
  • 2310: the Battle of Altair begins the Vegan War, which in turn leads to the formation of the Hruntan Empire
  • 2375: rediscovery of the “spindizzy” on Earth; “Okie” cities begin to spread across the galaxy
  • 2522: collapse of the “Bureaucratic State” on Earth
  • 3111: New York, N.Y. leaves planet Earth (its career in space forms the major part of the novel)
  • 3602: Earth police take action against the remains of the Hruntan Empire (Earthman Come Home)
  • 3975: the Battle of Earth (Earthman Come Home)
  • 4104: the End (A Clash of Cymbals / The Triumph of Time)

As a classic, this novel is well worth a read, in spite of some writing flaws that are obvious on a re-reading. See here for a more detailed review and plot summary. Goodreads rates the combined novel as 3.95 stars, which is consistent with my 3.5 (I have a tougher scale).

Cities in Flight by James Blish: 3½ stars

Albi Eco Race 2019 begins!

Image credits 1, 2, 3

The Albi Eco Race 2019 has begun. The solar-car segment (“Niveau 3”) includes Bochum University of Applied Sciences with their legendary 2011 car, SolarWorld GT (top left), as well as their sexy 2015 car, the thyssenkrupp SunRiser (top right; it will make a comeback at WSC later this year) and their 2017 car, the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser (not shown). The French (or rather, Breton) team Eco Solar Breizh is fielding their challenger Heol and their new urban mini-Cruiser hx2 (bottom). I understand that the Lycée Jehan de Beauce (Project 28) is also participating, along with the fantastic Ardingly Solar team from the UK (who will take their Cruiser to WSC as well).

The actual solar-car race is from 9:00 to 16:30 on Saturday (French time), if I am understanding the timetable correctly. There are active Twitter feeds from Ardingly, Bochum, Eco Solar Breizh, and of course the race itself.

Sadly, it looks like rain.

Image credits 1, 2, 3

Edit: it seems that the SolarWorld GT suffered some damage, which means that only two Bochum cars are competing. Also, hx2 is not competing in the solar-car segment. Below are the speeds from the qualifiers.

Further edit: The thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser won the event on points. The thyssenkrupp SunRiser came second, with 119 laps in 8 hours, i.e. an average of about 53 km/h. Heol from Eco Solar Breizh came third.


The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest is on right now. Above (click to zoom) is a combined word cloud for the songs (or English translations of the songs).

From the point of view of getting into the final, it seems to be bad to sing about Heaven (Montenegro, Portugal), war (Croatia, Finland), cell phones (Belgium, Portugal), or cold (Latvia, Poland, Romania). On the other hand, it’s good to sing about lights (Germany, Norway, Sweden).

Good luck to everyone for the final!

Origin by Dan Brown: a book review

Origin by Dan Brown (2017)

I recently read Origin, the latest Dan Brown novel. Just about every Dan Brown novel covers topics dear to my heart, such as cryptography, computer simulation, the theory of computation, and artificial intelligence – but also the history of science, the history of Christianity, Dante, and Galileo. Dan Brown routinely promises an accurate depiction of these background topics (in this latest novel, he says “All art, architecture, locations, science, and religious organizations in this novel are real”). However (as I also pointed out for his Angels & Demons), the reality of his novels doesn’t quite live up to this claim. To pick just three examples, Yves Klein did not invent the pigment in International Klein Blue; “Pope Innocent XIV” was an Argentinian antipope, not a Spanish one; and it is not suprising when computer simulations produce results reflecting the assumptions built into their design.

Gaudí’s la Sagrada Família (image credit) plays a major part in the novel. It has been on my bucket list for decades. It still is.

Even as a work of pure fiction, Origin still disappoints. As with Dan Brown’s previous novels, the constant appearance of crazed gunmen doesn’t make up for the plot weaknesses. And a major theme of the novel is artificial intelligence – now, I don’t object to this being portrayed far in advance of current technology (that’s not uncommon in fiction), but the theme of artificial intelligence has been handled far better by (among others) Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke/Stanley Kubrick, Michael Crichton, and Peter F. Hamilton. I also found the book’s ending profoundly anticlimactic. However, if you’re a fan of Dan Brown novels, you’ll probably like this one too.

For other reviews, see The Week (“Dan Brown is a very bad writer”), The National (“The idea that a computer simulation would fundamentally destroy the faith of billions in their religions is so utterly, cluelessly juvenile that it seems right at home in a Brown novel”), and The Stream (“It’s sci-fi done by someone who knows nothing about sci-fi”).

Origin by Dan Brown: 2 stars