Science has a concept called energy, which includes electrical energy, chemical energy, kinetic energy, and other (interconvertible) forms. Energy can be measured, and obeys laws like E = hν and E = ½mv2.
Then you have the “energy” involved in “energy medicine.” It does not correspond to energy in the scientific sense, cannot be measured or detected, and obeys no scientific laws. It is obviously not the same as the energy that scientists talk about. Why, one might even think it does not exist…
Solar Team Eindhoven, winner of the Cruiser Class (see my updatedpost about the results), has shown that practical solar cars (carrying multiple people) are not all that far away from commercialisation. All kind of interesting applications can be imagined for vehicles like “Stella” – or indeed vehicles like the equally interesting Sunswift eVe or PowerCore SunCruiser.
Jeroen Haringman at solarracing.org has done a superb job of analysing the race as it was happening, integrating information from both the official race site and from individual team blogs. When an event spans an entire continent, it’s difficult to get an overall perspective on what’s happening, unless someone does this kind of analysis. The organisers provided some of the raw data (GPS position and timing), but various photos, videos, and comments by participants were scattered around cyberspace, and required collating. One commenter called Jeroen Haringman’s site “the only comprehensible record.”
The individual media teams did a great job in communicating the excitement around the world via YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and blogs. The media teams of Twente (Dutch video) and Nuon (Dutch video with captions) did particularly well. With enough technology, it becomes almost like being there.
GPS feeds into Google maps were an effective way of covering the race, although varying forms of analysis that were being built on-the-fly during the race need to be developed further. A short-lived experiment with Google Docs was particularly interesting, though limited in several ways.
A “brave attempt” award goes to the two high-school entries, from Goko High School in Japan (their nice-looking Cruiser Class entry lost its rear wheels just outside of Alice Springs), and Choctaw Central High School in Mississippi (their sleek Adventure Class entry developed electrical problems between Katherine and Dunmarra). For a high school to even compete at this level is indeed a major achievement!
The sun has really been the star of the race. It provided the energy that powered the vehicles. But the pictures of the Tokai vehicle stalled in the rain on the morning of the fifth day are a reminder that the sun is not always available. The first three days of the race took place in a part of the world with an average insolation of around 250 W/m2. In cloudier regions and at higher latitudes, average insolation drops to less than half of that, as well as being less consistent. That means that energy storage will always remain a critical part of any solar technology. It also means that solar technology is perhaps better suited to some parts of the world than others.
Finally, let me finish my WSC race coverage with this parting photo (by Jorrit Lousberg) of Team Nuon in the outback. It’s been an exciting week!
The World Solar Challenge is on again, beginning this Sunday. Three thousand kilometres across the Australian desert, from north to south. Forecasts for the next few days indicate sunny weather for the Northern Territory, and 24–34°C (75–93°F). Closer to the centre of the country, we may see temperatures over 40°C (104°F).
A total of 40 teams from 23 countries will take part. Tokai Challenger (photo below by Kohei Sagawa and Hideki Kimura) won the last two events, in 2009 and 2011 (averaging 91.54 km/h in 2011). Can they win again?
The new Cruiser Class is also interesting. Results there will tell us something about when we can expect to see road-registered solar vehicles for sale. Solar Team Eindhoven explains their entry in the YouTube clip below. Are they desert-ready?
Update: Solar Team Eindhoven have pole position in the Cruiser Class. TeamArrow, from Queensland, have pole position in the Challenger Class, with the best overall lap time. The SIKAT team from DLSU in the Philippines have pole position in the Adventure Class. May the best cars win!