# Solar racing car numbers

As in all races, solar racing cars are identified by number. Some solar car numbers are simply traditional, like the 8 for Agoria Solar Team from Belgium (above). Others have a specific meaning, as shown in the chart below.

Some numbers are lucky in some way, such as 21 = “Twente-One.” Some are coded references to solar technology, such as 55 = the year that Western Electric began to sell licenses for silicon PV technology. Alternatively, numbers indicate the team’s home base. This can be done by specifying a road, such as the the Interstate 35 or Strade Statali 9 = the Via Aemilia. More commonly, telephone country or area codes are used, such as 40 = Eindhoven, 46 = Sweden, 82 = South Korea, or 828 = western North Carolina. Not shown in the chart is 34 = the vehicle license plate prefix for Istanbul.

Mobile phone picture by Rafael Fernandez

# Results of the ASC 2022 Road Race

Wrapping up the American Solar Challenge, the chart above shows the final official distances. The chart places optional “loops” driven at the end of each stage, even mid-stage loops. At the bottom of each bar is the final placing, with a star marking MOV (Cruiser) cars. The notation “(Tr)” identifies cars that trailered or were deemed to have trailered.

Below is a logarithmic visualisation of the MOV (Cruiser) scoring. The final score (last bar in each group) is the product (visually, the sum, since the chart uses logarithms) of seven factors:

• The distance driven d (in miles)
• The distance driven with penalties d’ (in miles)
• The average number of people p in the car
• The reciprocal of the total external energy usage E (in kWh)
• The practicality score P (out of 100)
• The speed derating T (1/70.86 = 0.014 for AppState)
• In grey, the reciprocal h of 171,780 (the longest distance driven, times 100)

This is equivalent to the way that the scores are broken down officially (since C = d’/1717.8 and D = d×p).

The final score for AppState is 1/4.2 = 0.24, as in the official results. Esteban (Poly Montreal) achieved the highest score through low total external energy usage, but was demoted to third place after missing a turnoff early in the race, which prompted this retrospective modification to regulation 12.11.C:

“Any team leaving the tour route must rejoin the route at the same intersection where they left the route or they will be considered to have trailered from their last completed route step before going off route. Their Load On Trailer Time will be the time that they went off route.”

PrISUm (Iowa State University) was forced to withdraw early on due to electrical issues, so scores 4th in the MOV (Cruiser) class.

# Challenges in the ASC 2022 Road Race

True to the name, there have been some challenges in the American Solar Challenge now taking place. On the first stage, Esteban (Poly Montreal) missed a turnoff, prompting this modification to regulation 12.11.C:

“Any team leaving the tour route must rejoin the route at the same intersection where they left the route or they will be considered to have trailered from their last completed route step before going off route. Their Load On Trailer Time will be the time that they went off route.”

PrISUm (Iowa State University) was forced to withdraw early on due to electrical issues

“Unfortunately things did no go as planned for PrISUm. Due to safety concerns for both the car and our team, we did not want to drive the car any farther. It is unfortunate that there was an electrical issue, which is hard to quickly and safely fix on race. We are very proud of our team performance at FSGP, compared to the last couple of years. Thank you to everyone for all of your support and following us throughout our journey.”

“On our 2nd loop in the city of Casper, our topshell detached from the vehicle; no injuries. The damage from this incident to the vehicle is not minor, but we worked very hard to get it back on the road! Thank you to all who helped!

Solar panels replaced, topshell corner redone in carbon fiber wet layup, tightened security attachments, lights picked up, stronger canopy, MPPTs repaired and even two flat tires all under 24h our convoy made it to time at stagepoint #2 in Lander, Wyoming just minutes from closing! The vehicle is in shape, today we are driving to Montpellier, Idaho.”

Illini (University of Illinois) had a narrow miss on the same stage:

“Today on our way to Lander, the team and Brizo faced a very near collision. As the convoy was waiting to turn left along the route, a semi lost control and tried to swerve around a pickup in front. The semi crashed a few feet from Brizo and the pickup truck landed mere inches from our chase car. Thankfully the entire team and Brizo were unharmed. However due to lost time, we had to trailer part of the second stage. Tonight we arrived in Lander and are ready for the rest of the American Solar Challenge.”

Official times for the first two stages are summarised in the chart below. The chart places optional “loops” driven at the end of each stage, even mid-stage loops. MIT leads the SOV/Challenger class, followed by Principia and Kentucky. The MOV/Cruiser scoring system is more complex, and only distances are shown here. However, Minnesota does appear to be ahead.

Latest news had most solar cars arriving at the Montpelier, Idaho checkpoint (including AppState and, I believe, Berkeley):

Follow the remainder of the race with the ASC car tracker (or just the dashboard). You can also check out the official ASC social media at        (click on the icons).

# ASC 2022 Road Race Team Photo

Above is the official American Solar Challenge team photo (slightly cropped). From left to right, the teams are:

Stars (★) mark cars in the MOV (Cruiser) class.

Follow the race with the ASC car tracker (or just the dashboard). You can also check out the official ASC social media at        (click on the icons).

# ASC 2021: road race, final day

Today sees the end of the American Solar Challenge. Above (click to zoom) are the final SOV standings, in New Mexico flag colours. MIT won, followed by Kentucky and Principia (Principia would have come second, were it not for some fairly stiff penalties given during scrutineering for minor regulation non-compliance).

Teams marked with a dot were forced to trailer at some point, and hence score lower. The optional “loops” driven are marked at the end of each stage (even the La Junta loop, which occurred in the middle of Stage 2). In the MOV class (not shown), Minnesota ran into problems, making App State the winners – their mountain-built car having taken all the passes in its stride.

Note: this chart reflect minor recent updates to the official Stage 2 numbers. The chart posted yesterday is therefore very slightly out of date.

The last day of the race was a short drive from Las Vegas, NM to Santa Fe, NM and back, across the Glorieta Pass through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (easier than the Raton Pass). Above (click to zoom) is a day in the life of Illini according to the GPS tracker. Elevation data is from the tracker, so the elevation profile is slightly incorrect where the tracker cut out.

The chart above (click to zoom) shows MOV practicality scores. Black stars indicate final ASC placing (App State won the class). PrISUm did not qualify for the road race, but came third at FSGP.

Below (click to zoom) are some memories of the route (photos are from the ASC and the teams).

# ASC 2021: road race, Day 4

Today sees the end of Day 4 and Stage 2 of the American Solar Challenge. Above (click to zoom) are the SOV standings at the end of Day 4, in Colorado flag colours. MIT leads, followed by Principia and Kentucky. Teams in red were forced to trailer at some point, and hence score lower. The optional “loops” driven are marked at the end of each stage (even the La Junta loop, which occurred in the middle of Stage 2). In the MOV class (not shown), Minnesota ran into problems, leaving App State in the lead. There is one short day of racing still to go.

Above (click to zoom) is the Gato del Sol VI of Kentucky visiting Fort Union National Monument. Marion Sloan Russell, who travelled the Santa Fe Trail multiple times, was an “army wife” there for some time. In her memoir, Land of Enchantment, she writes about revisiting the site:

At Fort Union I found crumbling walls and tottering chimneys. Here and there a tottering adobe wall where once a mighty howitzer had stood. Great rooms stood roofless, their whitewashed walls open to the sky. Wild gourd vines grew inside the officers’ quarters. Rabbits scurried before my questing feet. The little guard house alone stood intact, mute witness of the punishment inflicted there. The Stars and Stripes was gone. Among a heap of rubble I found the ruins of the little chapel where I had stood—a demure, little bride in a velvet cape—and heard a preacher say, ‘That which God hath joined together let no man put asunder.’

# ASC 2021: road race, Raton Pass

The American Solar Challenge has reached the 7,840 ft (2,390 m) Raton Pass. The updated chart above shows my best estimate of the current state of play in the SOV class. MIT has climbed the pass, as has Principia (and App State in the MOV class).

The Pass is tough, climbing 558 m in 22 km (2.5%), with a maximum grade of 6% on the steepest sections. Marion Sloan Russell, in her memoir Land of Enchantment, writes:

Breaking camp while it was still early, our cavalcade began the steep and tortuous ascent of the Raton Pass. Today we glide easily over hairpin curves that in 1860 meant broken axles and crippled horses. The trail was a faint wheel mark winding in and out over fallen trees and huge boulders.

Principia’s Ra XI climbs the Raton Pass (credit: PrinSolar)

# ASC 2021: what about MOV cars?

I have been asked about covering the Cruiser (MOV) cars this year. As the ASC photo above shows, Minnesota was the first team into La Junta (at 18:23:47 MDT). Cruiser (MOV) scoring is complex, but it’s mostly a complicated nonlinear function of speed. External energy usage, number of people in the car, and penalties also have an effect, but they are minor.

The chart below is an attempt to visualise who is ahead (I may not have gotten it quite right). For each team and day, there is a group of 4 bars. Mathematically, multiply the first two bars (distance with and without penalties) and divide by the third bar (the speed derate, which penalises going less than 35 mph) to give the fourth bar. Visually, just add the first two bars and subtract the third. So App State was well ahead on Day 1 (because they averaged 34.1 mph to Minnesota’s 29.6 mph), but Minnesota is well ahead now (averaging 35.6 mph to App State’s 34.3 mph).

To relate these numbers to the official ranks, multiply by the average number of people in the car, and divide by the scaling factor for the day, which is the largest of all the distance bars for that day. For example, for App State on Day 1, 20,548.5 × 2 / 244.1 = 168.36. I emphasise again that the numbers for today are estimates.

For a simpler view, we can just assess the cars based on average speed. The chart below does this, with the dashed red line indicating the target speed:

# ASC 2021: 2 days to go

It is now just a few days until the start of scrutineering in the American Solar Challenge (27 July in Topeka, KS). I have updated my teams list with facts and pictures.

There are 13 12 teams still registered for the race. Of these, 5 teams (CalSol 6, Kentucky 3, Illinois State 17, Georgia Tech 49, and App State 828) will be racing veteran cars – although with various improvements. In addition, the Brizo of Illini 22, the Nimbus of MIT 4, and the Cruiser Eliana of PrISUm 9 were completed some weeks or months back. Western Michigan 30, Principia 32, and Kansas 785 have not yet revealed a completed car, which is disconcerting. However, UMNSVP 35 have revealed their beautiful new Cruiser Freya:

Freya from University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project (credit)

Along with MIT 4, CalSol 6, and AppState 828, UMNSVP have departed for the racetrack. AppState is doing so with a hot new look:

ROSE from Appalachian State University (credit)

Update: Sadly, Kansas 785 have withdrawn from the race.

# American Solar Challenge 2018: The run to Burns

I recently got my hands on the GPS tracker data for the American Solar Challenge last July. Above (for the 6 Challengers completing the stage) and below (for the Cruisers) are distance/speed charts for the run from Craters of the Moon to Burns, which seems the stage of the route with the best data (at this time of year I haven’t the time for a more detailed analysis). Click on the charts to zoom. Small coloured circles show end-of-day stops.

Stage times were 15:Western Sydney 8:05:16, 101:ETS Quebec 8:20:13, 2:Michigan 8:25:08, 55:Poly Montréal 8:42:52, 4:MIT 9:07:58, and 6:CalSol 9:30:12 for Challengers, and 828:App State 10:22:37, 559:Bologna 12:13:57, and 24:Waterloo 15:29:12 for Cruisers (note that Bologna was running fully loaded on solar power only, while the other Cruisers recharged from the grid).

The data has been processed by IOSiX. I’m not sure what that involved, but I’ve taken the data as gospel, eliminating any datapoints out of hours, off the route, or with PDOP more than 10. Notice that there are a few tracker “black spots,” and that trackers in some cars work better than in others. The small elevation charts are taken from the GPS tracker data, so they will not be reliable in the “black spots” (in particular, the big hill before Burns has been truncated – compare my timing chart).