ASC 2016: How convoys work


A typical convoy (photo of solar car by Jorrit Lousberg, from here)

Solar cars in the American Solar Challenge each form part of a convoy – a typical convoy is shown above (click to zoom). The lead (front) escort vehicle must travel 500 metres or less ahead of the solar car, with headlights on and roof-mounted amber lights flashing.

The chase (rear) escort vehicle follows directly behind the solar car, also with roof-mounted amber lights flashing, and bearing a sign that says “CAUTION: SOLAR CAR CARAVAN AHEAD.” Both escort vehicles must carry safety equipment such as first aid kits and fire extinguishers. The chase (rear) escort vehicle typically also houses the team’s Decision-Making Unit (DMU), who plan the strategy for the race.


Left: Michigan’s lead and chase vehicles for the 2010 American Solar Challenge. Right: interior of Nuon’s chase vehicle for the 2011 World Solar Challenge.

The truck (or car with a trailer) rides further behind (at least 1 km). It carries equipment and provides the ability to transport the solar car in the event of a breakdown.


Left: Michigan’s semi-trailer driving down the Stuart Highway in the 2011 World Solar Challenge (photo: Marcin Szczepanski). Right: Calgary’s road crew truck from the 2005 North American Solar Car Challenge (photo: James Tworow).

The (optional) scout vehicle rides well ahead (at least 1 km), checking out road conditions and potential hazards. One of the less pleasant tasks for people in the scout vehicle is getting out and removing roadkill or other obstructions from the road.

There may also be additional vehicles, like media cars, or a weather car watching for clouds an hour or so ahead of the solar car. All the cars in the convoy stay in touch using CB radio. It takes a whole team to race a solar car! Sometimes quite a large team.

Click images for credits and larger pictures.


2 thoughts on “ASC 2016: How convoys work

  1. Don’t you agree that it’s rather inconvenient that solar cars (promoting green technologies for future usage) are being chaparoned by a convoy of diesel slurping SUV’s and trucks? Just something that struck me during the WSC2015…

    • Yes, I’ve heard that observation before. But the solar car races are research, and education, and outreach. I’m happy for people to burn diesel to make those things happen.

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