A typical convoy (click to zoom, photo of solar car by Jorrit Lousberg)
Solar cars in the American Solar Challenge each form part of a convoy – a typical convoy is shown above. 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 (credit). Right: interior of Nuon’s chase vehicle for the 2011 World Solar Challenge (credit).
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. 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! Here are some team descriptions of their convoys:
- Twente, 2015 (archived blog post)
- Twente, 2015 (infographic of their 11 vehicles)
- Illini, 2017 (video from inside chase vehicle)
- Stanford, 2017 (blog post)
This post has been adapted and updated from a previous one.