World Solar Challenge race chart 3

A third preliminary version of my race chart (I’m using the same baseline speed I used in 2017). The right vertical axis shows arrival time at “end of timing” in Darwin time (Adelaide time is an hour later).

More tragedy as Vattenfall is out of the race with a fire. The Belgians won the event (below), followed by Tokai and by Michigan (who were delayed by a time penalty). The fantastic new team Top Dutch came fourth.


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World Solar Challenge September 3 update

In the leadup to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October, most cars have been revealed (see my recently updated illustrated list of teams), with JU’s reveal a few days ago (see below), and Tokai’s reveal due in a few hours.

There are now 9 international teams in Australia (more than the number of local teams). Eindhoven (#40), Agoria (#8), and part of Vattenfall (#3) are driving north to Darwin, while Top Dutch (#6) have a workshop in Port Augusta (and living quarters in Quorn).


JU’s solar car Axelent (photo credit)

The chart below shows progress in submitting compulsory design documents for the race. White numbers highlight eight teams with no visible car or no visible travel plans:

  • #86 Sphuran Industries Private Limited (Dyuti) – this team is probably not a serious entry. I will eat my hat if they turn up in Darwin.
  • #63 Alfaisal Solar Car Team – recently, they have gone rather quiet, but they have a working car.
  • #89 Estidamah – they have not responded to questions. They also might not turn up, although they have obtained several greens for compulsory documents.
  • #80 Beijing Institute of Technology – they never say much, but they always turn up in the end. I don’t expect this year to be any different.
  • #4 Antakari Solar Team – they are clearly behind schedule, but they are an experienced team. They will probably turn up. (edit: they have revealed a beautiful bullet car)
  • #55 Mines Rabat Solar Team – they seem to have run out of time. Can they finish the car and raise money for air freight? I’m not sure. (edit: it seems that they will attend the Moroccan Solar Challenge instead of WSC)
  • #98 ATN Solar Car Team and #41 Australian National University  – these teams are obviously in trouble but, being Australian, they should still turn up in Darwin with a car. (edit: both teams have since revealed cars)



World Solar Challenge late August update

In the leadup to the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October, most cars have been revealed (see my recently updated illustrated list of teams), and the first few international teams (#2 Michigan, #3 Vattenfall, #6 Top Dutch, #8 Agoria, and #40 Eindhoven) have arrived in Australia (see map above). Bochum (#11), Twente (#21), and Sonnenwagen Aachen (#70) are not far behind. Eindhoven (#40) are currently engaged in a slow drive north, while Top Dutch (#6) have a workshop in Port Augusta (and living quarters in Quorn).

Meanwhile, pre-race paperwork is being filled in, with Bochum (#11) and Twente (#21) almost complete. Sphuran Industries from India (#86) is not looking like a serious entrant. On a more positive note, though, Jönköping University Solar Team (#46) is revealing their car later today!


World Solar Challenge car dimensions

The charts above and below (click to zoom) show the dimensions of some of the Challenger-class cars in the World Solar Challenge coming up this October (see also my illustrated teams list). In the chart above, ⬤ = cars with silicon arrays (4 m2 allowed), ⬛ = thin film single junction (3.56 m2 allowed), and ▲ = multijunction gallium arsenide (2.64 m2 allowed). All three technologies are in use this year. Hollow symbols denote cars from 2017.

Particularly noticeable is Twente’s incredibly shrinking car. They switched technologies this year, but were also so efficient that their new car is about 18% smaller than Delft’s – almost a square metre smaller! There are also three visible clusters – larger silicon-array cars at the top right, compact catamarans (like Twente and Delft) at the left, and monohulls at the bottom right. In the chart below, solid lines show dimensions for this year, and dotted lines those of 2017.

Update: the width of Eclipse’s entry has been corrected (the impact attenuator has been removed for WSC).


The legacy of Novum


Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

In 2017, the University of Michigan produced a stunning monohull solar car, Novum, which went on to take second place in the World Solar Challenge (it is shown mirror-reflected above). Their 2019 car, Electrum, has a pointier nose, and a more streamlined tail.

The new Top Dutch team has very sensibly taken Novum as a starting point for their car, no doubt feeling that the Netherlands already has too many catamarans (every new team should, if possible, strive to emulate one of the leaders of the last World Solar Challenge). Top Dutch appear to have independently made tail modifications very similar to those of Electrum. The Covestro Sonnenwagen from Aachen also shows signs of being influenced by Novum, but with a quite different nose.

Not shown are the Japanese monohulls, which look a little different, and the unique asymmetric monohull from Stanford. It will be very interesting to see all these monohulls take on the compact catamarans from Delft, Twente, and Belgium in the race this October!


A tale of two arrivals

Fifty years ago, on 19 July 1969, the spaceship duo Columbia / Eagle entered orbit around the Moon, roughly 3 days and 4 hours after its launch, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Eagle (with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) went on the land on the moon on 20 July while Columbia (with Michael Collins) continued to orbit the moon. When he announced the space programme, Kennedy had said:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Much can be learned from doing hard things, and an enormous amount was learned from the space programme. Solar car teams also learn a great deal from doing hard things. Fifty years after Columbia and Eagle entered orbit, also after hard effort, the University of Michigan Solar Team’s solar car Electrum arrived in public view (at 17:30 Michigan time). They intend to win too!


2019 World Solar Challenge quick update

A busy few days in the world of solar car racing! Michigan has announced that their new car will be called Electrum. Top Dutch revealed their car (see above and this video). Wisely, they choose a design different from the other Dutch teams. It looks so good that at this stage I’m calling them “best new team.” Is it good enough to have an all-Dutch podium, though?

The other big reveal was Twente, the first top-five team to reveal their car (see below, this press release, and this video). It’s a fantastic-looking vehicle, and if it’s as fast as it looks, Twente should do well. For more details on BWSC teams, see my recently updated teams list #6.