Which is the best World Solar Challenge team?

Recently, I saw that someone had asked on the Internet which the best team in the World Solar Challenge was.

For the WSC Challenger class, this is not a difficult question. Nuon Solar Team owns the race, and has won six times out of eight this century (although “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”). The more interesting question is: who is second? There are four main contenders for that honour.

A few years ago, I would have placed Tokai University second. They won the race in 2009 and 2011. However, unless they can reverse the trend, their star seems to be falling.

Michigan are very definitely the best US team. However, they have pointed out themselves that they suffer “the curse of third,” and thus far lack the je ne sais quoi that it takes to win (of course, when they find it, Nuon had better watch out).

The star of Solar Team Twente is rising. They worked their way up to second place in 2015. They could win this year.

Finally, the Belgian team from KU Leuven is also moving up, and I expect them to do very well this year also.

In the WSC Cruiser class, “best” is a fuzzier concept. However, Eindhoven, Bochum, and UNSW/Sunswift have all done consistently well, with Eindhoven winning the last two races.


World Solar Challenge progress

Across the world, solar car teams are beginning to finish their cars for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, the premier world contest in sustainable vehicle technology. Michigan has shipped their famous semi, while MDH and Iowa have revealed their cars (photo memories from MDH Solar Team, Iowa State University, University of Michigan, Bochum, and Kogakuin). Meanwhile, the road from Darwin to Adelaide is waiting.

See here for an updated team list.


Solar Car Racing Team Sizes


Solar Team Eindhoven

I’ve been hearing some curiosity about the sizes of solar car teams, and so I checked out the online team lists for Punch, Bochum, Twente, Eindhoven, Nuon, Lodz, Michigan, MIT, PrISUm, and Sunswift. The histogram below summarises what I found. The superb Bochum team is the largest, with 77 members. Champions Nuon have the smallest team, with 16. Apparently it’s not just size that is important.

See also my list of WSC solar car teams.


European Solar Challenge 2016 Results


Circuit Zolder seen from above (imagery: Landsat, car photo: Anthony Dekker)

The European Solar Challenge at Circuit Zolder this year had an interesting format, with a 24 hour endurance track race, a competition for the fastest lap time, a chicane challenge, and a presentation about the car. Requiring a balance between speed, cornering ability, and battery capacity, the track race seemed to provide a fair competition for both Cruiser-class and Challenger-class cars.

Twente won the track race, with 278 laps (ahead of the Tesla with 273 laps), followed by Punch Powertrain from Leuven (262) and the PowerCore Suncruiser from Bochum (258). The Thyssenkrupp Sunriser from Bochum ran the fastest lap (3:03.063), followed by their Solarworld GT (3:09.990) and the Swiss Solar Energy Racers (3:19.891). The chicane challenge was won by the Solarworld GT, and the presentation by Twente.

The chart below shows the updated and official team points. The bars labelled “Total” on the left are the sum of all the other bars. Teams with zero points are not shown. Congratulations to all the teams, especially Twente, who won overall, Punch Powertrain, who came second, and the Thyssenkrupp Sunriser, which came third!

European Solar Challenge 2016 Update

Below, once again, are the 12 solar car teams that will be competing in the European Solar Challenge this year, with revised links to their websites and social media. The ESC will be held at Circuit Zolder in Belgium from September 23 to 25 this year. It will be a 24 hour endurance track race, competing against a (non-solar) Tesla Model S (however, teams may charge their car from mains power up to two times, if they stop for an hour to do so). About half the points for the ESC will come from the number of laps of the track completed. Other points will come from the fastest lap time, a timed chicane challenge on the 23rd, and a presentation about the car. Follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.


Circuit Zolder seen from above (imagery: Landsat, car photo: Anthony Dekker)

The 24 hour track race starts at 13:00 on the 24th, and sunset will be at 19:32 that evening. The sun will rise again at 07:30 the next morning, and the race will continue until 13:00 on the 25th. Long-range weather forecasting suggested that the weather might be cloudy that weekend, but a more up-to-date forecast suggests sun (see diagram below). See also this nearby weathercam (about 8.5 km away, and facing towards the racetrack).


Advance weather forecast for the 24 hour track race

DE  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

This team came 3rd in the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. Bochum are fielding three teams at ESC (racing the Solarworld GT, which drove around the world in 2011/12; the PowerCore SunCruiser from WSC 2013; and the beautiful ThyssenKrupp SunRiser from WSC 2015).

  

GB  Cambridge University 

This team came 22nd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. Their car has an interesting teardrop design.

TR  Dokuz Eylül University / Solaris 

This team came 25th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015.

CO  EAFIT / Cambria 

This is a new team. They have posted a nice team overview video.

IT  Futuro Solare 

This appears to be a relatively new team. Read more about them here. Their car is called Archimede in honour of the famous mathematician of that name, who was a native of Syracuse, the team’s home town.

TR  Istanbul Technical University 

This team came 17th in the Challenger class at WSC 2013. They will be racing a rebuilt version of one of their old Challenger class cars, not the more recent Cruiser shown below.

IT  Onda Solare 

This team came 10th in the Challenger class at WSC 2013, and 10th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They came 2nd in the Evolución class at the 2016 Carrera Solar Atacama.

BE  Punch Powertrain Solar Team 

This team came 3rd in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, and 5th in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. They will be racing Indupol One, their entry from WSC 2013.

CH  Solar Energy Racers 

This team came 5th in the Challenger class at WSC 2013, and 11th in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. They also participated in this year’s American Solar Challenge. They will be racing their SER-1 car, which was their entry in the 2011 WSC.

NL  Solar Team Twente 

This team came 2nd in the Challenger class at WSC 2015. Their Red One is the fastest entry in terms of raw speed. Whether that is enough to win the challenge remains to be seen.

Here is the scoring matrix for the event:

  Chicane Fastest Lap 24-hour Race Presentation
1st 20 20 50 10
2nd 15 15 40 8
3rd 10 10 30 6
4th 5 5 20 4
5th 0 0 10 2

This post last updated 11:29 on 23 September 2016 AEST


World Solar Challenge: Day 7

Today in the World Solar Challenge, the last few non-trailered teams came in, causing me to reflect on how poorly I’ve covered Principia (team 32, USA). They weren’t the fastest car, nor did they run into spectacular problems – they just reliably covered 3,022 km of outback driving.

See the chart above for other cars, and click to zoom (data in the chart is taken from the official timing board, with the most obviously wrong numbers removed, and with some numbers added from twitter photographs taken at control stops). The three remaining non-trailered Cruisers also arrived: Sunswift (team 75, Australia), Bochum (team 11, Germany – who drained their battery dry getting to end of timing last night), and Minnesota (team 35, USA – who made it to end of timing with three minutes to spare).

A large number of trailered cars also arrived. It will be impossible to rank these until the official results are released. Among the six trailered Cruisers were Lodz (team 45, Poland – their vehicle would make a great city car) and ITS (team 31, Indonesia – which has same national colours),

We also had the “practicality judging” for Cruisers today. Sadly, the results have not been released. In the absence of official results, I’m just going to hand out my own awards – the Scientific Gems “gem awards.” And the first of these is the sexy car gem, which goes to Bochum, for building the car that several hundred drooling engineers (even those who had successfully optimised their own vehicle for speed) wished that they had built. Bochum even had real wood inlays in the dashboard!


The “sexy car gem” goes to Bochum, for the ThyssenKrupp SunRiser


WSC: Currently in Oz

There are still only 7 international World Solar Challenge teams in Australia (click on the social media icons to find out what they are up to):

Cruiser class (2 teams)

Challenger class (5 teams)

Three of these teams are also on the list of Challenger class teams that mostdece.blogspot.com expects to do well, and two are favourites in the Cruiser class. Thirty days to go before the race!

Meanwhile, Bochum have started driving north – see their GPS tracker – while the Belgians are getting up close and personal with crocodiles. Twente have been clearing their car through Biosecurity. Michigan (photo at top) are in Adelaide, as shown on the map below:

Icons on the map are clickable and have mouseover explanation.

Update: there are rumours that Stanford is in Adelaide as well, but I have seen no word from them to that effect.