ASC 32: Road Race Day 4 (part 1)

Today the solar cars in the American Solar Challenge travelled to Lander, Wyoming (Michigan and Western Sydney clocked in yesterday already). As the map above shows, Lander is 48% of the way through the race (by distance) or 44% (by days). This is a good opportunity to see how the teams are going.


Tuesday morning, Day 4 (picture credits: 1, 2 3 4)

For the Cruiser (MOV) class, the “cactus” diagram below tells the story for Stage 1 (first two days). For each car, the first coloured bar shows the number of person-kilometres (distance driven times the average number of people in the car). All cars ran full. The second coloured bar shows the external energy input, which is the number of charges (including the pre-race charge) multiplied by the battery capacity. This bar points downward, because large values are bad. The third coloured bar, which is the final score, is the first bar divided by the second (all bars are scaled so that the highest value is 100%). Congratulations again, Minnesota!

For the race as a whole, Cruiser (MOV) scoring also includes speed and practicality components.


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ASC 31: Road Race Day 3


Casper arrival (picture credits: 1, 2)

Compared to previous iterations, this American Solar Challenge is a little short of timing data, but we data scientists do what we can. The race chart below is a variation of my usual style, based on official data up to Gering, and on a combination of the timing board and Twitter timestamps for Casper. A small elevation chart is included at the bottom.

The chart is constructed with reference to a theoretical car which drives at exactly 80 km/h all the way. Vertical position indicates how far behind that theoretical car the various teams are. That’s in elapsed-time terms, of course – CalSol was 8.7 hours behind Michigan at Casper by elapsed time, but because of staging, they were only 2 hours behind in physical terms. Penalty minutes are added in at the right-hand side of the chart (this is noticeable for Esteban).

Some points to note:

  • On the open road, Michigan are averaging what champions Nuon did at the 2017 World Solar Challenge. Western Sydney are not far behind. In fact, Michigan have gone on to reach the stage stop at Lander.
  • The two cars from Montreal are still neck-and-neck, fighting it out for 3rd.
  • In the Cruiser (MOV) class, Minnesota and Onda Solare are both still running behind the 53.5 km/h required speed, and so are attracting slowness penalties. In fact, they are not far ahead of the 45.8 km/h speed where Cruisers are deemed to have trailered. However, there is probably a well-thought-out strategy behind this.
  • The cars have been climbing, but the big climb is yet to come.
  • A hailstorm hit Casper around the time that the Cruisers were there. Hopefully the cars are OK (Minnesota and Onda Solare are, at least).
  • Most teams seem to be spending the night in Casper. Michigan, Western Sydney, and ETS are in Lander already, while Esteban and MIT seem to be on the road somewhere.

Morning fog and hills (picture credits: 1, 2)


ASC 30: A Milestone

One of my eagle-eyed readers has pointed out an interesting milestone – Italian team Onda Solare has competed in solar car races on all six continents not covered in ice. I believe that they are the first team to do so.

  • North America: this event, the 2018 American Solar Challenge
  • South America: the Carrera Solar Atacama (coming 2nd in the Evolución class in 2016)
  • Europe: the European Solar Challenge (coming 6th in 2016) and the Albi Eco Race (winning in 2017)
  • Africa: the Moroccan Solar Race Challenge (wnning in 2016)
  • Asia: the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge (coming 10th in 2015)
  • Australia: the World Solar Challenge (coming 10th in 2013)

Well done, Onda Solare!


ASC 29: Road Race Day 2 Wrap


picture credits: 1, 2

This post has been updated TWICE.

Sunday 15 July (Nebraska time) in the American Solar Challenge road race saw clouds and rain, and several cars were forced to trailer. In the Challenger (SOV) class, Western Sydney crossed the finish line just before Michigan (above). Below (in the colours of an Oregon Trail campfire) are the speeds for Stage 1, based on official timings. Western Sydney were declared winners of this first stage. The two cars from Montreal are also neck-and-neck, with Eclipse (101) just ahead of Esteban (55) after penalties.

In the Cruiser (MOV) class, Minnesota and Onda Solare are the two cars left standing. Both of these cars are running about 2 hours behind the 53.5 km/h required speed, and so both are attracting slowness penalties (as per revised regulation 13.3.A). Both cars seem to have run fully loaded (2 people for Minnesota, 4 for Onda), so scoring for the Cruisers reflects battery size and the number of recharges they have done from the grid (currently zero for both, apparently). However, on a pure seats-to-kWh ratio, Minnesota (2 / 6.75) outperforms Onda (4 / 16.8), and this is why Minnesota were declared Cruiser winners of this first stage.


picture credits: 1, 2

Seven days of racing to go! … With only 12 cars, unfortunately, since Western Michigan and SIUE were unable to meet their provisional qualification requirements. However, Illini, Georgia Tech, Waterloo, and AppState are still in the race, though trailered, with partial distance credit.


ASC 28: Road Race Day 2 (morning)

Sunday 15 July (Nebraska time) looks like being cloudy, which is not good for the American Solar Challenge road race. The map below (click to zoom) shows the latest known team positions. GPS trackers are proving unreliable, and the grey positions reflect approximate positions as at last night. Waterloo, Onda, AppState, and the teams pictured (ETS in Ellsworth, Esteban on the road, Illini near Halsey, and CalSol in Halsey) are all on the move, however. Western Sydney seems to be back in the lead.


ASC 27: Road Race Day 1 Wrap

This post has been updated.

Here are the approximate night-time positions of cars at the end of the first day of the 9-day American Solar Challenge road race (click to zoom). GPS trackers are proving unreliable in Nebraska, so this map is based on social media reports and gossip about locations. For example, Eclipse posted an Instagram story about end-of-day charging at Ellsworth, Nebraska (650 km by road from the start). Western Sydney seem to be in Alliance (700 km), but may have driven ahead slightly to find sleeping accommodation. Day 2 of the race will end at Gering (790.2 km).

And here, in the colours of an Oregon Trail sunset, are the speeds to the Grand Island checkpoint. The bullet car from Michigan is ahead, but only by minutes. Sadly, Western Michigan had problems with their car and failed to meet their provisional qualification speed requirements. Also, none of the Cruisers are keeping to the necessary average speed of 53.5 km/h. They will all need to speed up somehow. Georgia Tech have trailered, but are still in the event. SIUE are racing non-competitively.

In some highlights, Western Sydney is nipping at the heels of Michigan, Esteban charges at the checkpoint, Minnesota changes a tire, and Onda is on the road:


ASC 26: Road Race Day 1 (morning)

Saturday 14 July (Omaha time) marked the start of the 9-day American Solar Challenge road race. The maps below (click to zoom) use extrapolation of GPS positions (based on the speeds included in the GPS feed) so that they are probably a bit more realistic than just looking at a snapshot of the live map. The photographs come from various teams.

Initially, there was fog, and a nail-biting contest between Michigan and Western Sydney for the lead. A few teams had problems at the start, and SIUE briefly strayed off the race route:

After two and a half hours, Michigan was in the lead, having driven 164 km. Georgia Tech was still doing repairs. Illini (shown in grey) seemed to have GPS problems, so their position was uncertain. In the Cruiser class, only Appstate was running at the necessary average speed of 33.3 mph or 53.5 km/h (but no doubt this will change):