American Solar Challenge Late March Update

It is not much more than three months until the American Solar Challenge. Scrutineering begins on July 10th, assuming that the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t interfere.

Kansas (785) have finished their battery pack, Illini (22) have cancelled their car-reveal event [no image], as have Esteban (55), Michigan (2) have withdrawn from the event entirely (citing coronavirus reasons), and UBC (26) have made fantastic progress on their Daybreak.

See also my updated illustrated list of teams. At present we have 33 teams registered, but some teams are obviously in trouble, and some cars are not going to get built before July. On the other hand, other teams are making good progress. Nevertheless, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic lies over the whole event.

World Solar Challenge 2019: even more charts

Adding to my earlier list of World Solar Challenge distance/speed plots, here are 8 more (mostly circulated previously on Twitter). Night stops and notable events are marked on the bottom of each chart in a highlight colour. Control stops are in black.

Michigan traditionally comes third in the World Solar Challenge. They were third again this year. Their chart shows no drama, just fast, steady racing.

Control stop times for Michigan: Katherine: Sunday 12:29:00, Daly Waters: Sunday 16:08:02, Tennant Creek: Monday 12:13:30, Barrow Creek: Monday 15:14:24, Alice Springs: Tuesday 10:02:07, Kulgera: Tuesday 13:42:10, Coober Pedy: Wednesday 10:25:19, Glendambo: Wednesday 14:21:01, Port Augusta: Thursday 9:14:26, Adelaide: Thursday 14:56:00.

Western Sydney, in their beautiful car Unlimited 3.0, battled electrical issues, motor problems, and a wind gust that finally took them out. They still found time to help out Sonnenwagen Aachen on the road south. The photograph in the chart is mine.

Control stop times for Western Sydney: Katherine: Sunday 12:55:00, Daly Waters: Sunday 16:59:06, Tennant Creek: Tuesday 11:51:31.

There was no such drama for ETS Quebec (Éclipse), just steady consistent driving, finishing as best Canadian team, 2th North American team, and 9th in the world. That’s why they received my consistency gem.

Control stop times for Éclipse: Katherine: Sunday 13:27:04, Daly Waters: Monday 8:55:47, Tennant Creek: Monday 16:08:23, Barrow Creek: Tuesday 11:13:27, Alice Springs: Tuesday 16:10:27, Kulgera: Wednesday 11:59:00, Coober Pedy: Thursday 9:48:25, Glendambo: Thursday 13:56:55, Port Augusta: Friday 9:32:09, Adelaide: Friday 14:21:48.

Swedish team Jönköping University (JU) also had plenty of drama. They were forced to stop under cloudy skies with a flat battery and they needed an overnight repair. But they still finished tenth!

Control stop times for JU: Katherine: Sunday 12:51:56, Daly Waters: Monday 8:07:49, Tennant Creek: Monday 14:31:05, Barrow Creek: Tuesday 9:41:27, Alice Springs: Tuesday 14:13:37, Kulgera: Wednesday 12:39:00, Coober Pedy: Thursday 9:53:47, Glendambo: Thursday 13:51:40, Port Augusta: Friday 10:04:55, Adelaide: Friday 14:44:20.

Antakari had a smooth and largely uneventful race, apart from a couple of stops of a few minutes each. The GPS track shows them hunting around for a good campsite each night. They finished 7th (just ahead of NITech).

Control stop times for Antakari: Katherine: Sunday 13:15:43, Daly Waters: Monday 8:56:38, Tennant Creek: Monday 15:06:40, Barrow Creek: Tuesday 9:55:51, Alice Springs: Tuesday 14:17:59, Kulgera: Wednesday 10:34:05, Coober Pedy: Thursday 8:45:34, Glendambo: Thursday 12:58:06, Port Augusta: Friday 8:33:08, Adelaide: Friday 13:07:11.

Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech) also had a smooth and largely uneventful race, finishing 8th (just behind Antakari).

Control stop times for NITech: Katherine: Sunday 12:56:50, Daly Waters: Monday 8:06:31, Tennant Creek: Monday 14:42:02, Barrow Creek: Tuesday 9:38:31, Alice Springs: Tuesday 14:40:56, Kulgera: Wednesday 10:22:50, Coober Pedy: Thursday 8:45:20, Glendambo: Thursday 13:01:29, Port Augusta: Friday 8:38:35, Adelaide: Friday 13:24:10.

The team from Durham University crossed Australia on solar power, in spite of minor electrical problems (they are the first UK team to do so for many years). Unfortunately they only managed around 2830 km, not quite reaching Adelaide. In the past, cars have been permitted to drive on Saturday mornings, whereas this year, cars had to cease driving on Friday evening. Judging from the graph, Durham might not have realised this for the first few days.

Control stop times for Durham: Katherine: Sunday 14:26:58, Daly Waters: Monday 10:34:22, Tennant Creek: Tuesday 9:39:42, Barrow Creek: Tuesday 13:45:32, Alice Springs: Wednesday 10:53:29, Kulgera: Wednesday 15:59:45, Coober Pedy: Thursday 14:36:36, Glendambo: Friday 10:01:30, Port Augusta: Friday 14:42:19.

Swedish newcomers Chalmers Solar Team managed two control stops, but were slowed significantly by the hilly terrain in the first part of the route. They therefore trailered at around 735 km.

Control stop times for Chalmers: Katherine: Sunday 14:56:54, Daly Waters: Monday 12:49:32.


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.


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.

2019 World Solar Challenge update #5


Michigan’s Novum, after having arrived second in 2017 (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Warning: this list is obsolete. Please check more recent posts.

Here is a further update on the 51 teams (27 Challengers, 23 Cruisers, and 1 Adventure car) aiming for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this coming October. Many teams are busy with construction, and below is my best understanding of the current team status (it does not yet reflect the to-be-published official list of teams). A few things have changed since my last list, and I have added some pictures and corrected some errors.

Meanwhile, 25 teams – Bridger, Calgary, CalSol (1st in 2017), Esteban (3rd in 2017), Florida, Ga Tech, Illini, Illinois St, Kentucky, Mich St, Missouri S&T, NCSU, NJIT, Northwestern, Principia, PrISUm, Purdue, Rutgers, SIUE, UBC, UPRM, UT, UVA, W Mich, and Waterloo, including 1 WSC team – are preparing to attend FSGP 2019 in America this July.

Recent BWSC news is that JU Solar Team have a body, that Eindhoven have a bottom shell, that Top Dutch and CalSol also have shells, and that Bochum have clarified their plans.

In addition, on 24–25 May, the Albi Eco Race will have Bochum competing against Ardingly and several French cars (see my report on the 2018 event).

AU  Looks on track  Adelaide University 

Challenger (Lumen II) – they have been doing a lot of testing.

AU  Hmmm  ATN Solar Car Team 

Cruiser (new team: see my team bio) – their team is a mixture of lecturers and students from five universities across Australia. They have tested a model in a wind tunnel.

AU  Hmmm  Australian National University 

Challenger (new car: MTAA Gnowee) – the car is named after a woman in Aboriginal myth who carries the sun. They are working on their mould.

AU  Looks on track  Flinders University 

Cruiser (Investigator Mark III) – they are planning to improve aerodynamics, reduce weight, and make some other changes.

AU  Looks on track  TAFE SA 

Cruiser (SAV) – this time they will tow the trailer that belongs with the car.

AU  Looks on track  Team Arrow 

Cruiser (ArrowSTF) – they have done a six-month-out update video.

Team Arrow 6 Months to #BWSC19 Update

AU  Looks on track  University of New South Wales / Sunswift 

Cruiser (Violet) – they have been testing their car on the track.

AU  Looks on track  Western Sydney Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – they won the American Solar Challenge last year (with their Challenger car Unlimited 2.0).

BE  Looks on track  Agoria Solar Team (KU Leuven) 

Challenger (new car: BluePoint) – they have some (top secret) production moulds and are now sponsored by Agoria. They held a mock race with the old car.

CA  Looks on track  ETS Quebec (Eclipse) 

Challenger (Éclipse X.I) – they came an excellent 3rd in the ASC, 102 minutes behind Western Sydney, and hope to go even faster with the new battery pack in their modified car. Planned improvements are summarised in their winter newsletter.

CA  Looks on track  University of Toronto (Blue Sky) 

Challenger (new car: Viridian) – they plan to unveil the new car in July.

CL  Hmmm  Antakari Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Intikallpa V) – no news on the new design as yet.

Antakari BWSC 2013 aftermovie (they participated in the Adventure class)

CL  Hmmm  Eolian AutoSolar 

Cruiser (new car: Auriga ) – they will be back at the WSC after coming 14th in 2007.


public domain photo

DE  Looks on track  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

Cruiser (thyssenkrupp SunRiser ) – Bochum is not building a new WSC car, but are improving their sexy 2-seater SunRiser, which came 3rd in 2015. They also have a solar buggy team. As in previous years, they are participating in the Albi Eco Race.


photo: Anthony Dekker

DE  Looks on track  Sonnenwagen Aachen 

Challenger (new car) – they have a car-racing game app starring their car.

HK  Looks on track  Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education 

Cruiser (Sophie 6 plus) – they have been working on the car body.

IN  Looks like they might not make WSC  R.V. College of Engineering 

Challenger (new car) – no details as yet.


public domain photo

IN  Hmmm  SolarMobil Manipal 

Cruiser (SM-S2) – existing car.

IR  Hmmm  University of Tehran 

Cruiser (new car: Persian Gazelle 4) – they will unveil their car on 11 June.


public domain photo

IT  Looks like they might not make WSC  Futuro Solare Onlus 

Cruiser (new car: Archimede 2.0) – they have an exciting design concept.

IT  Looks on track  Onda Solare 

Cruiser (Emilia 4) – they won the American Solar Challenge (Cruiser class) last year, and they have written up their design process here.

JP  Looks on track  Kogakuin University 

Challenger (new car) – they have announced their participation and held a “Solar Team Welcome Party” for new members.

JP  Looks on track  Nagoya Institute of Technology 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.


public domain photo

JP  Looks on track  Tokai University 

Challenger (new car) – in January they hosted some visitors from Lodz.

KR  Looks on track  Kookmin University Solar Team 

Challenger (new car) – no news on the new design as yet.

KUST BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they raced in the Challenger class)

MY  Looks on track  EcoPhoton / UiTM 

Challenger (new car: Tigris) – see their first vlog (in Bahasa Malaysia).

MA  Looks like they might not make WSC  Mines Rabat Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Eleadora 2) – their new catamaran will look like this. They have made a mould for their body.

NL  Looks on track  Solar Team Eindhoven 

Cruiser (new car: Stella ?) – they have turned a shipping container into an oven for production and plan to reveal their car on July 4. The bottom shell just came out.

NL  Looks on track  Solar Team Twente 

Challenger (new car: Red E) – they are already producing regular vlogs (in Dutch), and have also produced an (English) day-in-the-life blog post. They have revealed their design, which is a GaAs catamaran (see the animation here). They will run a MOOC explaining the design of their 2015 car, and will reveal their 2019 car on (of course!) 21 June.

NL  Looks on track  Top Dutch Solar Racing 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – they have a shell, which looks a lot like Michigan’s Novum.

NL  Looks on track  Vattenfall Solar Team (Delft) 

Challenger (new car: Nuna X) – these are the champions formerly known as Nuon. See their 2017 aftermovie.

PL  Looks on track  Lodz Solar Team 

Cruiser (Eagle Two) – they have produced a solar baby, which is a prize that lasts.

PL  Looks like they might not make WSC  PUT Solar Dynamics 

Cruiser (new team) – they are making a mould for their body.

SG  Looks on track  Singapore Polytechnic 

Cruiser (SunSPEC 5) – they have new motors and new doors.

SE  Looks on track  Chalmers Solar Team 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – their final render resembles the car of the South African NWU team. They have been working on their suspension, and hope to ship the car in early June.

SE  Looks on track  Halmstad University Solar Team 

Challenger (new team: see my team bio) – they are planning a bullet car, much like Michigan’s 2017 entry.

SE  Looks on track  JU Solar Team 

Challenger (new car: Axelent) – they have a rolling test chassis and a body. The body design seems long and thin.

SE  Looks on track  MDH Solar Team 

Challenger (MDH Solar Car) – they have been doing some testing.

CH  Looks on track  Solar Energy Racers 

Challenger (SER-3) – they raced this car in South Africa.

TW  Looks on track  Kaohsiung / Apollo 

Cruiser (new car: Apollo IX) – they have been making some carbon-fibre seats.

TH  Looks like they might not make WSC  Siam Technical College 

Cruiser (new car: STC-3) – no news on the new design as yet.

Siam Technical College BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they raced in the Cruiser class)

TR  Looks like they might not make WSC  Dokuz Eylül University (Solaris) 

Challenger (new car) – they expect the new car to be 44% more efficient than the 2015 model.


public domain photo

GB  Looks on track  Ardingly College 

Cruiser – this high-school team came 6th in the iESC Cruiser class, but have upgraded the car since then. They have been entertaining royalty, and will participate in the Albi Eco Race.

GB  Looks on track  Cambridge University 

Cruiser (new car: Helia) – they are busy with fabrication.

GB  Looks on track  Durham University 

Challenger (new car: Ortus) – they have been doing outreach, as well as fabrication.

US  Looks on track  Appalachian State University (Sunergy) 

Cruiser (new team: see my team bio) – as with some European teams, they have been testing at an airport.

US  Looks on track  Berkeley (CalSol) 

Cruiser (new car: Tachyon) – they have a shell. They will also attend FSGP 2019.

US  Looks on track  Houston School District 

Adventure (Sundancer) – this high school team from from Houston, Mississippi is a regular visitor, because they keep winning the US high school race.

US  Looks on track  Stanford Solar Car Project 

Challenger (new car) – they have revealed their shell, which is a unique asymmetric bullet car.

US  Looks on track  University of Michigan 

Challenger (new car) – they are asking for name suggestions for the new car.

Michigan BWSC 2017 aftermovie (they came 2nd in the Challenger class)

US  Looks on track  University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project 

Cruiser (new car: Freya) – they have posted a progress video on Facebbok.

UMNSVP BWSC 2015 aftermovie (they came 5th in the Cruiser class)

This page last updated 23:09 on 18 May 2019 AEST. Thanks to Nigel for several news items.