World Solar Challenge: Team 38

38  University of Tehran Solar Car Team (Persian Gazelle III)

The team from the University of Tehran has been racing Persian Gazelles since 2006, and participated in the 2011 WSC. This year, they are in the Cruiser class. They seem to have just finished building a very unusual vehicle – it looks more like a Challenger class entry, but with a passenger seat behind the driver.

This does not seem to me to be quite in keeping with the spirit of the Cruiser class, but it does seem to be within the rules. The car will probably do relatively poorly on practicality judging, but given the 2015 scoring changes (speed component increased from 56.6% to 70%, practicality component decreased from 18.9% to 10%) that no longer matters. Should they win, however, that would almost certainly lead to complaints from the other Cruiser class teams and inevitable further rule changes.

But can they win? Let’s assume that they were entered in the 2013 Cruiser class against Stella and Sunswift’s eVe. Let’s assume further that they ran at the speed of Twente’s Red Engine (which is at least aerodynamically plausible) with no external recharging; that they carried no passenger; that they received a practicality score of zero; that the 2015 scoring rules were applied; and that eVe’s practicality score was increased to that of Stella. In that case, Persian Gazelle III would have won comfortably, with Stella coming second, and eVe third:

Total Score Speed Practicality Person-km External Energy
Stella 74.5 88.3 9093 4
84.18% = 65.43% + 10% + 5% + 3.75%
eVe 77.7 88.3 3022 4
83.65% = 68.24% + 10% + 1.66% + 3.75%
Persian Gazelle III 79.7 0 3022 1
86.66% = 70% + 0% + 1.66% + 15%

Now some of those assumptions are unrealistic, and anything can happen. But it certainly does make the race even more interesting!

For up-to-date lists of all World Solar Challenge 2015 teams, see:

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19 thoughts on “World Solar Challenge: Team 38

  1. Pingback: World Solar Challenge: The Cruisers | Scientific Gems

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  3. The Cruiser class stimulated much debate in 2013, mostly because of the vagaries of the rules and whether they favoured one type of vehicle over another.

    I thought that the changes to the rules this year had gone a good way to resolving those issues, until I saw this car. My first thought was that this is wrong, it’s not in the spirit of the event, it’s nothing like a real road car. But then I thought about it a little, the Aerial Atom is nothing like a real road car but that doesn’t stop it being highly desirable to many people. If this is the sort of target audience that the Gazelle is aimed at then why not? Ok, having to climb in from the top is not great but then again nor was it great to have to crawl in to the original Stella under the top hung door.

    Now to the problem. If this car performs like a Challenger it WILL win, no question. The new charging regime is sure to reduce the average speeds in the Cruiser class with some people thinking that they will not be able to maintain enough speed to complete the course in the six days available. But let’s assume that the better cars are able to complete the course at 65km/h. If Persian Gazelle can average just 75km/h it would gain a 10.33 points advantage. Assuming that it does not need to recharge, and remember that it probably has three times the battery power of the Challenger cars so it shouldn’t need to, then it will gain another 7.5 points.

    That’s a 17.83 advantage with only 13.75 possible further points available (or 12.5 for a two seat vehicle). In reality, with the Gazelle sure to pick up at least some points for practicality and other teams unlikely to run fully loaded for the entire race then the Iranians should win by 7 or 8 points.

    I don’t think that’s good, but I do think it is fair.

    Rule change next time? Simple! cars must be entered via doors in the side of the vehicle.

    • Actually, I thought that the old Cruiser class rules were balanced exactly right. The new rules are biased towards exactly this kind of car – and all credit to the Iranians for realising that (I didn’t at first!). My understanding, from their web pages, is that they began planning a Challenger class car, and then realised that by extending the cockpit they could win the Cruiser class. Calculating different ways, I think we agree on that.

      Now, personally I’d like to see the old Cruiser class points system return, or a rule that the driver and passenger sit side-by-side (as in the Atom!), but perhaps your suggestion that cars must be entered via doors in the side of the vehicle is even better.

      • My only problem with the old rules was that they very slightly favoured bigger cars. I’m a firm believer that the majority of cars should be made for two people as they rarely carry more than that.
        I think that the use of the brief should solve that problem.

        I’m not sure about the single charge this time( I would prefer two), we will see if that was a step too far for the technology.

        Of course there is one barrier that the Persian Gazelle team has to overcome, they have to complete the course and that is never guaranteed.

      • Well, there is a market for bigger cars. On US data, the average car used for work travel holds 1.14 people; for social/recreational travel it holds 2.05 (with a long tail including occupancies of 6 or more).

        Actually, I thought the old rules had the balance between the 4-seater family car and the 2-seater sports car pretty much right – thus avoiding the need for two separate Cruiser classes. And I think that Eindhoven is correct regarding the potential for a “solar family car” to sell the technology. Showing that a car can carry three passengers highlights the fact that solar power can do everything that internal combustion engines can do – even though the first commercial solar cars will probably look more like Sunswift’s eVe than like Stella.

        And you’re absolutely right about completing the course. My recent post about 2013 highlighted the fact that (sadly) most entries don’t.

  4. Of course you are right about a market for family cars. My concern was that both the points advantage for carrying more people and the added points in the practicality judging meant that Eindhoven gained points twice for the same thing. This suggested that a four seater was better than a two seater. The use of the brief should hopefully negate this advantage.

    • The brief is certainly a good idea. But the main weakness in the practicality judging is perhaps the lack of specific guidance. Both Eindhoven and UNSW have worked hard at the interior design of their vehicles this year; but they can only guess how many points are to be gained that way.

  5. Alright, a few comments.

    #1: Assuming that a car that looks like Iran’s car could go as fast as Twente’s 2013 car is an extremely naive assumption. On the plus side, it has up to triple the batteries! On the downside, it’ll be heavier (gotta have a chassis and suspension that can carry the passenger, who is 80kg of deadweight), the underbody bulge is longer (and wider, if the passenger is straddling the driver as they appear to be), the canopy is longer and will shade more solar cells, etc. That said, it’s still probably the most aerodynamic way to design a 2-seater (or maybe Kogakuin’s tunnel car). This style of car was the obvious choice for 2013 (I know several of the Cruiser teams were looking into it back then), except that “practicality” was a black box that everyone was scared of poking. Finally, this is all moot for 2015 anyway. Let’s be honest – the Iranian team is not a threat. They’re a rookie team, and not in the sense that Nuon/Tokai/Eindhoven were at their first races. My bet is that they’ll actually finish the course – they probably won’t have to throw the car in the trailer – but they’ll be near dead last among the finishers. The question is whether WSC will proactively change the rules for 2017 to deal with cars like this.

    #2: Some general Cruiser class gripes and musings:

    A lot of solar car teams HATED the scoring from the 2013 version of the regs. The huge battery + three charging locations meant that >>65% of the energy used by the Cruiser cars came off the grid. It was a battery-electric vehicle race augmented by solar, not a real solar car race, and that was dumb. I’m glad that the number of charging stations has gone down this year; now it’s at least going to be closer to 50/50 gird/solar split. I think teams like Minnesota and UNSW were planning to only use the middle charging location in 2013 – their cars were aerodynamic enough that they should have been able to do that and *still* beat Eindhoven and Bochum on time, but both had problems with their cars and had to use all three charges to keep up.

    The completely subjective, completely opaque “practicality” judging also turned off a lot of teams – and if Minnesota’s car with that narrow, rubbing-shoulders seating was judged at a 76% relative to Eindhoven’s comfy 4-seater, the scoring process must have been a complete joke. I’m glad it’s way less important this year, and I’d like to see it go away entirely. If they want to force more practical looking cars, do it via regs (*requiring* four seaters in 2×2 seating, perhaps?). If WSC doesn’t explicitly define what they want to see in the cars in the regs, teams will do what’s best for them, not what WSC thinks is best for the race.

    It sucks that Cruiser cars are limited to the same small planform and same solar array size – and most of them end up with FEWER solar cells due to the larger canopies/windshields/etc. Dumb, dumb dumb way to do the regs if it’s a SOLAR car event, and it’s annoying that they only futzed with the scoring equation for 2015, rather than addressing some of the fundamental shortcomings. The old ISF6000 class two-seaters from the ’01-’07 era were allowed 3sqm more planview area (33% more than single-seat cars) and the extra solar cells to match, and only 20% more battery than the single seaters. There was no silly scoring equation, there was no grid charging with humongous batteries, and they were *required* to carry two people at all times. The officials were smart enough to size the array and battery such that they were actually competitive with the single-seaters as *pure solar cars*, and the fastest car won – period.

    Under the 2013 scoring, and assuming a working car, an aerodynamic two (or three) seat Cruiser car that carried two people for the entire race and only used the middle charging location should have been a winner – but all of the two seaters had major issues in 2013. Eindhoven won because they had built a better team and a better overall system, not because they picked the right car design (not a huge shocker: reliability often matters more than car design at solar car events). Using the same assumptions I made when looking at 2013, the 2015 regs favor the slickest little two seater imaginable, and then driving without passengers for the entire race – the points you get for passengers in 2015 don’t really make up for their weight slowing you down. Cars like Iran’s and Kogakuin’s entries this year are the clear choice; we’ll see if they have the race teams to back their car designs up.

    • Thank you for those insightful comments. My comment about going as fast as Twente’s 2013 car was really one about the theoretical limit for this kind of design. And they don’t really need a heavier chassis and suspension, since the regulations don’t require them to actually carry a passenger at all. And while they may not be a serious threat to Nuon/UNSW/Bochum, they are certainly a threat to some of the 8 other Cruiser class teams.

      I agree with you on charging locations in the Cruiser class. However, I don’t think that practicality should have been reduced in value; I think it should simply have been made more transparent (and probably judged in Darwin). Your suggestions of larger array size for Cruisers and of requiring a passenger are both, imho, really good ideas. After all, the idea behind the Cruiser class is that the winning entries should look like cars which people would plausibly buy.

    • MostDece
      First, I have enjoyed reading your own blog. You are obviously very knowledgeable regarding solar racing, if a little forthright in your views.

      I hope that Tony doesn’t mind if I take advantage of this forum to ask if you might open up your comments section to us mere mortals who are not members of the right “clubs”. Unless I am missing something there is no way to comment unless you have certain accounts running.

      Back to this post, I am interested whether you have any opinion as to the sort of average speed you would expect for the Cruisers this year. I’m sure that they will not be blasting off at close to the speed limits as they were able to last time but how much slower do you think they will be?

      I notice that you call the Iranians a rookie team. Have you not noticed that they have been around since 2005, competing at WSC07 and WSC11. OK they did not have much success but then that’s pretty normal in this game.

      You are obviously very keen on winning and that can be a good thing. I think, however, in your comment that teams will do what is good for themselves that you under-estimate the desire, in some teams at least, to further the cause of sustainable transport more than to win a race. After all, the whole class came about because of Bochum’s acceptance that they could not win the race in 2009/2011 but could do something better than that. Even now Bochum are moving the goalposts further away by making their own car less competitive. They seem to be the only experienced team that are using less carbon fibre and more steel this year.
      I’m certain that as time moves on more and more teams will move over to this class – mostly because I am sure that it will be easier to get backing from sponsors for something that shows signs of practicality.

      Good luck and keep up the excellent blog.

      • Whoops, never saw this comment for some reason (but yes, I’ve opened up comments a bit).

        I’m writing up a post about my expectations for 2015 this year, stay tuned.

        Yes, the Persian Gazelle team from Iran has been around for a decade now, so perhaps I should not refer to them as “rookies”, but as far as I can tell, they’ve only competed in 3 events (they debuted in Taiwan in 2006), and never particularly successfully. It’s been 4 years since they last competed, they’ve likely had a lot of turnover in that time, and running a race takes a lot of practice and experience to do well. I do not expect that the team will be much better prepared than the average first-time team.

        *shrug* There will always be teams that want to do their own thing. But if all you want to do is show off this cool thing you made, or “further the cause of sustainable transportation”, why bother complying with all of the complex competition-specific rules? Why not do World Record runs, take the car around the world, etc, and maybe show it off in the Adventure class if you really want to do WSC? Xof1 did plenty of cool things for almost a decade without ever entering a single solar car race.

        Maybe I’m just a competitive bastard, but races are about WINNING. If we didn’t care about that, why wouldn’t we just hold a parade with a car show at the end? It would be a hell of a lot easier… And winning is important even if your main goal is revolutionizing the future of transportation – Stella certainly would not have gotten anywhere near as much press as it did after WSC 2013 if it hadn’t won.

        Also, I’m not sure what you mean about Bochum making their car *less* competitive this year – it’s longer, lower, sleeker, and only seats two people rather than three. The datasheet weight is a little heavier – 360kg vs 240kg for the old car – but that’s not a huge deal. They definitely massaged their design to perform better with the new regs changes, and they’re honestly one of my favorites to win this year.

  6. MostDece, you’re absolutely right: races are about winning. But that means that race rules should be chosen so that optimising cars to win has the side-effect of moving the technology in some kind of desirable direction. In the case of the Cruiser class, that direction is presumably towards commercially viable street cars.

    • Sure, of course. The rules shape the race, and if the organizers have a long term vision, they should be writing the rules such that the highest performance cars adhere to that vision.

      But you can’t expect the teams do not do everything they can within the rules to win. Going back to the original post: If a car like PGIII won, good for them for being the *best engineers* and *best racers* and figuring out the winning formula that no one else saw. If teams complained about it, despite being fully within the rules, well, sour grapes eh? And if the race officials did not expect teams to field cars like this, well, they did a poor job of writing their own rules.

      Also: after years of solar car racing, I can’t imagine that WSC seriously thinks that solar powered cars will ever be commercially viable. The best way to pair solar power with my electric car is to put the cells on the roof of my garage, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change. That doesn’t change the fact that solar car racing was a *fantastic* part of my engineering education. Honestly, that’s the biggest draw for me – there are plenty of companies and organizations across the globe, big and small, that are working on the future of transportation, but WSC (and other solar car races) are a nearly-unique educational experience.

      • Thanks for that insightful response.

        Certainly, we can expect teams to do everything they can within the rules to win. If anything I wrote implied that the Iranians did anything wrong, I expressed myself poorly. They did nothing wrong at all, and (as you say) kudos to them if they win. My issue is with the Cruiser class rules themselves. I don’t think they adequately capture the stated philosophy on the website: “we have established the Cruiser Class to encourage solar cars designed for practicality and acceptance in a given market segment.”

        And I take issue (slightly) with your comment about viability – I think if you built 100 copies of UNSW’s car, you could sell them all now to environmentally conscious wealthy people and make a profit. You couldn’t sell millions, though.

        I strongly endorse your comments about education, however. The educational value of the WSC is one of the things that excites me about the event. To misquote JFK, “We choose to go to the moon … and build a solar car, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” However, THAT particular goal needs, among other things, stability in the rules, given that the less-well-funded teams operate a 4-year (or longer) build cycle. I personally would like to see a limited number of internationally accepted solar car classes with stable definitions.

        I have no opinion on whether “the best way to pair solar power with my electric car is to put the cells on the roof of my garage.” Eindhoven is arguing the other way — that the best way to power the house is with solar cells on the car parked in the driveway. It remains to be seen whether their approach will work.

      • Sure, I’ll definitely agree that the Cruiser rules don’t seem to adequately match the stated philosophy.

        Selling copies of eVe would be… hard. I won’t deny that it’s a hot little car, but it’s thin on creature comforts, and it’s built to race a few times, supported by an army of tireless students – not to stand up to daily wear and tear for years on end with an occasional tuneup every few thousand miles. And if you want to make a profit, remember, *labor is not free* – teams rarely factor the cost of labor or engineering time in when quoting values on their cars. Tooling up to build a small run would not be a trivial endeavor. Perhaps you could manage to sell a few as toys for the ultra-rich, but that’s not what I think of when I think “commercially viable car”.

        If the car were engineered everything to “real car” standards – including crash test standards, and designing it around commercially available tires that last for more miles than my car goes between oil changes, air conditioning, etc – it’s going to weigh a hell of a lot more, it’ll take more power to drive, and it would end up using proportionally more energy off the grid than out of the solar array – to the point the solar array is more of a gimmick than actually a primary part of your energy generation, like that silly little array on top of the Fiskar.

        I’ve never seen a solar array on a solar car that looked good after more than a few years (they’re extremely fragile), so I really question the logic using a solar array on the car in your driveway to contribute power to the home. People can walk on top of the panels used in commercial housing installations, but they weigh hundreds of pounds – and you just can’t afford the weight to ruggedize the array on a moving vehicle that has to be hyper efficient. Why not stick the cells on your house where you’ve got an order of magnitude more space, weight doesn’t matter, and there are fewer shading issues – and then build a more ideal electric car, unencumbered by both the weight of the array and the inherent compromises between aerodynamics and solar insolation?

        I’ll note that Tesla – a company that sells exclusively electric cars and that seems very interested into getting into the home solar market – has zero public plans to put solar cells on their cars. Instead, they’re cramming more and more batteries into them, and working on expanding charging infrastructure. Elon Musk also cofounded SolarCity, the second largest provider of solar power systems in the USA, so it’s not for a lack of expertise with solar power.

  7. “Selling copies of eVe would be… hard.” — I take your point. But what I was getting at is that I can imagine a hundred wealthy people buying an “eVe” at a high enough price to generate a profit — because (1) it screams environmental consciousness and (2) it is, as you say, “a hot little car.” The same for Bochum’s sexy-looking SunRiser, I would think. The other cruisers seem less sellable in the immediate term, and this Iranian car (fast though it might be) least of all, because it looks a little cramped inside.

    “Why not stick the cells on your house where you’ve got an order of magnitude more space, weight doesn’t matter, and there are fewer shading issues – and then build a more ideal electric car” — also good points; and I note that small countries like the Netherlands can realistically be covered by a complete charging infrastructure. Other than as toys for the rich, the true market for solar cars would, it seems to me, probably be one requiring long-distance travel and/or operation in remote areas. Exactly what the WSC tests, of course, but all the real-world examples I can imagine would require a relatively heavy vehicle. Then again, 20 years ago, few would have believed that a “Stella” or an “eVe” were possible, so I may yet live to see the day.

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