A Belgian solar car climbs the mountains of Chile

Punch at CSA 2018 (picture credit)

Well, Punch Powertrain Solar Team, from Belgium (above) is currently racing against just one other Challenger car in the Carrera Solar Atacama in Chile (see: and the live tracker). I thought it would be interesting to compare Punch’s performance against that other mountain race, the 2018 American Solar Challenge, won by Western Sydney University.

The two races can’t be compared directly, however. The Carrera Solar Atacama has a greater elevation range (sea level to 3415 m, compared to 296 m to 2585 m for this year’s ASC). The CSA is south–north, rather than east–west, and takes place around 20° closer to the equator, on average. More dramatically, however, this year’s ASC allowed 2 m2 supplementary solar panels during static charging (see image below). This made the ASC a faster race.

WSU using supplementary solar panels at ASC 2018 (picture credit)

What I have done instead is compare the average speed for each segment against the approximate average climb rate, using the information provided in Punch’s wonderful infographics (see their social media: ). The corresponding datapoints for WSU were calculated in exactly the same way, and linear regression was applied for each team (see lines on the chart at the bottom of this post). The flatter line for Punch shows that they were less affected by the steep climbs. This is presumably due to their fancy new motor, which has a half-speed/double-torque mode. This Mitsuba motor was built by Nomura Co to Punch’s requirements.

Punch’s motor, built by Nomura Co (picture credit)

Update: the chart below has been updated with new data.


New solar car teams #5: Appalachian State

It’s a bit of a stretch calling Appalachian State University / Sunergy  (click: ) a new solar car team. Having rebuilt the shell of an old car donated by PrISUm, they first hit the American solar car scene at FSGP 2015 (where they failed scrutineering), ASC 2016 (where they came 6th), and FSGP 2017 (where they came a satisfying 2nd). But this year they did become a new team (in the Cruiser class), with their first car built from scratch, ROSE.

AppState’s ROSE (picture credit)

The Cruiser class is, in some ways, a tougher race than the Challenger class, but it’s an easier sell (to sponsors and to the general public). For example, I’m a big fan of Nuon’s beautiful and efficient Nuna 9S (the Stradivarius of solar cars), but you can’t really point to it and say “this is the future of transportation.” It’s far too cramped for that – more like an elegant mathematical proof or a work of art than like a practical vehicle. However, “the future of transportation” would be a feasible label for Cruisers like Eindhoven’s Stella Lux or Bochum’s SunRiser – so it’s not surprising that many solar car teams want to emulate those two pioneers.

The Stradivarius of solar cars, from Dutch champions Nuon, is nevertheless a little cramped (picture credit)

AppState did the right thing by attending ASC 2018, although their car had apparently not even been turned on before the race. Because of electrical problems, they did not manage to drive the entire distance – but they obtained good experience, and they know what to fix now. We can expect to see a greatly improved version of their car at the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Good luck, y’all!

AppState’s multi-stage path to the BWSC is a good model for other intending Cruiser class teams to follow. And with a drag coefficient of 0.17, they have not made the mistake of neglecting aerodynamics – because, in the Cruiser class, efficiency still rules.

New solar car teams #4: ATN

ATN Solar Car Team  (click: ) is a new Australian Cruiser-class solar car team. They are attempting something I have never seen done before – design and construction of a solar car by a team distributed across a continent. According to the initial press release:

I will be very interested to see if they can make this work and which virtual team tools and techniques they will use to do so. So far, ATN Solar Car Team has produced a number of quite different design concepts. The video below shows one of the more interesting ones, and has produced many admiring comments:

Note: Independently of this effort, the experienced Team Arrow will continue as a Cruiser-class team based in Brisbane (also associated with QUT).

New solar car teams #3: Chalmers University

Chalmers Solar Team  (click: ), from Gothenburg, is one of two new Swedish solar car teams (both in the Challenger class, as are the existing teams from Jönköping University and Mälardalens University). Their preliminary render (above) is reminiscent of the South African Naledi (from NWU), but this render seems to date from before the start of serious design work, so we might see something quite different for the race. Lycka till!

The team is housed next to the campus library (photo: Bjoertvedt)

New solar car teams #2: Halmstad University

Halmstad University Solar Team  (click: ), from Halmstad, is one of two new Swedish solar car teams (both in the Challenger class, as are the existing teams from Jönköping University and Mälardalens University). Their university is relatively new, having been established in 1983. It sees itself as “innovation driven,” which makes building solar cars a good fit for them. HUST is still refining their design, but they seem to be influenced by Michigan’s 2017 “bullet car.” They are also fundraising on gofundme to raise support for their solar car construction and travel to Australia. Lycka till!

New solar car teams #1: Top Dutch

Top Dutch Solar Racing  (click: ) is a new solar car team sponsored by the northern (“top”) region of the Netherlands: the provinces Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe (see topdutch.com). This is a region with a long history and a strong environmental focus (see montage above).

The team is associated with the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the University of Groningen, the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, and local high schools. They are building a Challenger-class car for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, they had observers at the 2017 event, so they know what they are up against. They will be joining three other teams from the Netherlands (Nuon, Twente, and the Cruiser-class team from Eindhoven), which means that, for the first time, an all-Dutch podium becomes a possibility.

Team manager Jeroen Brattinga explains the project in this (Dutch) video. They have also been driving a test chassis around for some time.

2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge: preliminary list

Western Sydney at the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (photo: Anthony Dekker)

The 51 teams listed below (27 Challengers, 23 Cruisers, and 1 Adventure car) have expressed interest in the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge next October (social media links have not all been checked – some might no longer work):

This page last updated 09:17 on 25 October 2018 AEDT