American Solar Challenge Late March Update

It is not much more than three months until the American Solar Challenge. Scrutineering begins on July 10th, assuming that the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t interfere.

Kansas (785) have finished their battery pack, Illini (22) have cancelled their car-reveal event [no image], as have Esteban (55), Michigan (2) have withdrawn from the event entirely (citing coronavirus reasons), and UBC (26) have made fantastic progress on their Daybreak.

See also my updated illustrated list of teams. At present we have 33 teams registered, but some teams are obviously in trouble, and some cars are not going to get built before July. On the other hand, other teams are making good progress. Nevertheless, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic lies over the whole event.

American Solar Challenge March Update

It is just over four months until the American Solar Challenge in July.

Poly Montreal (55) are making good progress on their Cruiser Esteban 10, MIT (4) are making good progress on their Challenger Nimbus, Berkeley (CalSol) have donated their 3-wheel Gold Rush to George Mason (Hypernova), and Vattenfall (7) have a new team, who will rush-build a new Nuna Phoenix specifically for ASC (incorporating features such as a metal roll cage).

See also my updated illustrated list of teams. At present we still have 34 teams registered, but some teams are obviously in trouble, and some cars are not going to get built before July. On the other hand, other teams are making good progress, and Illini (22) are due to reveal their new car on Friday 27 March.


How solar is that solar car?

Above (click to zoom) is a chart showing WLTP-standard solar-only driving ranges for the three solar cars from my last post (battery ranges not shown here):

  • Solar Team Eindhoven’s Stella Era, winner of the BWSC Cruiser class
  • Lightyear One, a commercial solar car from the Netherlands
  • The Sion electric vehicle from Sono Motors

These solar-only driving ranges are marked on a smoothed distribution of electric vehicle driving patterns reported in this paper (distance driven per vehicle-day on days when the vehicle was driven).

The sleek Stella Era has a solar-only range more than 4 times the mean 70 km driven. On more than 99% of trips, Stella Era can operate solar-only, and, on average, its solar panel produces substantial excess electricity which can be donated to other vehicles.

Lightyear One has a solar-only range less than the mean 70 km, but is still able to operate solar-only on 57% of trips.

The less expensive Sion is able to operate solar-only on 19% of trips, and has a useful solar boost to its battery the rest of the time.


So you want to buy a solar car?

Above (click to zoom) is a chart showing WLTP-standard driving ranges for four electric vehicles (brown for battery range, yellow for the boost due to solar panels). The four cars are:

  • Solar Team Eindhoven’s Stella Era, winner of the World Solar Challenge Cruiser class (not for sale, of course)
  • Lightyear One, a commercial solar car from the Netherlands which incorporates considerable know-how from solar car racing
  • The Sion electric vehicle from Sono Motors
  • The non-solar Tesla Model 3 Long Range

The sleek Stella Era has almost double the range of the Tesla, in spite of having a much smaller battery pack. This is due to the Dutch racing car’s extremely aerodynamic shape and light carbon-fibre construction. Lightyear One comes about as close to the performance of Stella Era as you would expect a normal-looking production car to come (and is about two and a half times as heavy).

The rather boxy Sion has a much smaller range than Lightyear One (but, at an expected €25,500, is much cheaper). Which solar car would you choose?


iLumen European Solar Challenge 2020

For solar-car teams, the iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) is open for early-bird registration for the race on September 18–20 this year (with discounts for registrations before 1 Feb). Details on the event blog, and registration info here.

My reports on the 2018 event are report 1, report 2, and report 3.