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 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 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.


ASC 26: Road Race Day 1 (morning)

Saturday 14 July (Omaha time) marked the start of the 9-day American Solar Challenge road race. The maps below (click to zoom) use extrapolation of GPS positions (based on the speeds included in the GPS feed) so that they are probably a bit more realistic than just looking at a snapshot of the live map. The photographs come from various teams.

Initially, there was fog, and a nail-biting contest between Michigan and Western Sydney for the lead. A few teams had problems at the start, and SIUE briefly strayed off the race route:

After two and a half hours, Michigan was in the lead, having driven 164 km. Georgia Tech was still doing repairs. Illini (shown in grey) seemed to have GPS problems, so their position was uncertain. In the Cruiser class, only Appstate was running at the necessary average speed of 33.3 mph or 53.5 km/h (but no doubt this will change):


ASC 22: Crush Appendages

In 2016, when Michigan entered their WSC 2015 car in ASC 2016, they were forced to invent the “crush appendage” (above) to satisfy ASC crush zone requirements. At the time, I merely thought “that’s interesting.” Fast forward to 2018, however, and crush appendages are everywhere!

On Facebook, I promised people an “ugliest appendage” award. An honourable mention goes to Onda Solare (team 559), for having one on every door, but the winner has to be Minnesota. Those appendages really ruin the aesthetics of a beautiful Cruiser!