ASC 38: Road Race Day 8


Start, drive, cross the line, recharge (picture credits: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Day 8 of the American Solar Challenge was another sunny day. The road to Burns included several steep hills, climbing out of the Snake River Plain, and teams that did not negotiate them yesterday had to do so today. Appalachian State were the first Cruiser to arrive in Burns. Onda Solare are the only untrailered Cruiser, however (and still with 4 people and no external recharging). The chart below summarises the race so far (penalty minutes are added at the right of the chart).

I am awarding my “Cruiser Pioneer” gem to the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project, who are America’s Cruiser (MOV) class pioneers. They were the only Cruiser at ASC 2016. They came 4th in the WSC 2013 Cruiser class, and 5th in the WSC 2015 Cruiser class. They won the FSGP MOV class this year by a convincing margin, and were clear leaders for the ASC road race until they ran into trouble 40 miles into stage 4 (with an electrical fault). Thank you, UMNSVP, for showing everybody else the way!


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ASC 37: Road Race Day 7


ASC, Day 7 (picture credits: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Day 7 of the American Solar Challenge was full of drama. An incredible race between Western Sydney and Michigan saw average speeds to the checkpoint in Mountain Home of 90.8 km/h (56.4 mph). In the Cruiser class, there was a tragic breakdown by Minnesota, which I think will leave Onda Solare the winners by default.

I am, however, giving my “Most Desirable Car Gem” award to PrISUm. Their car did not qualify for the road race, but I still think that their “solar SUV” is a fantastic concept.

And here are the night-time car positions (unreliable in the case of Michigan). I have overlaid them on my elevation map to emphasise the 850 metre downhill run into Mountain Home, and then the climb back up into Burns.


ASC 36: Road Race Day 6 wrap

The American Solar Challenge have released official stage 3 timings, summarised in the chart above (click to zoom). Michigan and Western Sydney are only minutes apart. ETS Quebec / Eclipse is in third, and gaining, thanks partly to the brilliant tactic of finishing Day 3 just a few metres from the Stage 2 finish line in Lander. Given the battery impound rules, this gave them substantial additional solar recharging.

Although the American Solar Challenge is far from over, I’m already giving my “Most Improved Team Gem” award to ETS Quebec / Eclipse (team 101, formerly 92). ETS came 18th at WSC 2013 (completing only 1530 km), and 8th at ASC 2016 (after Michigan, Dunwoody/SER, Toronto, Missouri S&T, Principia, AppState, and PrISUm). With their car Éclipse X, however, I think they have reached the world top 12 level, along with teams like Toronto and Stanford. I really hope to see them at WSC again soon! And, it must be said, their compatriots in team 55 (Poly Montreal / Esteban) are not far behind them.

In the Cruiser (MOV) class, the “cactus” diagram above tells the story so far. For each car, the first coloured bar shows the number of person-kilometres (distance driven times the average number of people in the car). Penalties have reduced this person-kilometre amount, so my calculation of the average number of people in the car is a little off. 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%). Minnesota and Onda Solare have been running on the same basis as the Challenger (SOV) cars – no external recharging during the race. This is an incredible achievement!

However, the regulations specify that Cruisers should arrive in less than 53 hours (dashed green line in the top chart), with time penalties if they do not, and with cars deemed to have trailered after 62 hours (dashed pink line). On performance to date, I estimate that Minnesota will arrive in 59.0 hours, and Onda in 59.7, which means that Minnesota’s score will be multiplied by 30%, and Onda’s by 23%. Onda can still win if they recharge from the grid and finish the race at 70 km/h or so. Eindhoven’s Stella Vie could do that, but I’m not sure that the Italian car can. They may have left recharging too late, having allowed Minnesota to dictate what kind of race was going to be run.


Western Sydney wins Stage 3, Michigan recharges (picture credits: 1, 2)


ASC 34: The Big Climb


The mountains, Day 5 (picture credits: 1, 2)

Well, we had the “Big Climb” in the American Solar Challenge. The mountains were beautiful, but timewise it was an anticlimax. Michigan and ETS / Eclipse slowed down a little, but some other cars actually sped up! The battles for 1st and 3rd are still quite close, as the chart for Farson shows (click to zoom). The Cruisers seem to be trying to pick up the pace a little.

On an unrelated matter, although the American Solar Challenge is far from over, I’m getting a head start on my personal Gem Awards for the race. The “Solar Car Family Gem” goes to Team 55 (Poly Montreal / Esteban) for the multiple mentions in social media of their helpfulness.

Oh, and the tracker seems to be working again. Here (unchecked and unedited) are night-time positions:


ASC 33: Road Race Day 4 (part 2)

Although the American Solar Challenge is far from over, I’m getting a head start on my personal Gem Awards for the race. The “Beautiful Background Gem” goes to the National Trails Intermountain Region for its wonderful scenery. Running the race along the Oregon Trail was a brilliant idea!


Tuesday evening, Day 4 (picture credits: 1, 2)

The race chart below is similar to that previously posted, but based on official data to date. 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 (in elapsed-time terms). Penalty minutes are added in at the right-hand side of the chart. Trailered vehicles are shown at the top left. Notice that Western Sydney are only 19 minutes behind Michigan, and ETS/Eclipse only 87 minutes behind Michigan.

In the Cruiser (MOV) class, Minnesota and Onda Solare are both still running well behind the 53.5 km/h required speed (shown by the dashed green line), and so are attracting slowness penalties (per regulation 13.3.A). In fact, Minnesota is below the 45.8 km/h threshold where Cruisers are given a zero efficiency score (dashed pink line). I’m not quite sure what the strategy for these teams is, but both Cruisers appear to be in trouble.

Also, the cars have been climbing, but the big climb is yet to come. Good luck to everybody!


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 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.