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!

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 32: Road Race Day 4 (part 1)

Today the solar cars in the American Solar Challenge travelled to Lander, Wyoming (Michigan and Western Sydney clocked in yesterday already). As the map above shows, Lander is 48% of the way through the race (by distance) or 44% (by days). This is a good opportunity to see how the teams are going.

Tuesday morning, Day 4 (picture credits: 1, 2 3 4)

For the Cruiser (MOV) class, the “cactus” diagram below tells the story for Stage 1 (first two days). For each car, the first coloured bar shows the number of person-kilometres (distance driven times the average number of people in the car). All cars ran full. 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%). Congratulations again, Minnesota!

For the race as a whole, Cruiser (MOV) scoring also includes speed and practicality components.

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 24: Track Race Wrap

CalSol, Waterloo, MIT, and SIUE on the track (picture credit)

Well, the Formula Sun Grand Prix or FSGP (the 3-day track race component of ASC) is over. I have updated my race information page and teams list with news and some pictures. To summarise the event, the chart below (in the colours of a Nebraska sunset) shows the total laps (after penalties) for each car (as with all images on this page, click to zoom). Teams which qualified for the road race are marked (with “P” indicating provisional qualification). The Russian team (89) had a rather slow car (not to mention that the motor eventually died), but they also received a large penalty (possibly for battery replacement?).

Some teams treated FSGP purely as a qualifier, while others went out hard to win it. Congratulations to Poly Montreal / Esteban (55) for being the winner, to Berkeley / CalSol (6) for coming second, and to Western Sydney University (15) for coming third! These will all be strong contenders in the road race (along with Michigan, who seem to have taken things fairly easy on the track). For the Cruiser (MOV) class, things are a little more complex, and are discussed later in this post.

FSGP 1st, 2nd, and 3rd (picture credit)

This chart shows the fastest lap speeds for each team. Western Sydney University (15) ran the fastest lap, at 80.5 km/h (50.0 mph):

And here is a revised (and, I think, final) teams poster, with the teams qualified for the road race marked in green:

For the Cruiser (MOV) class, the “cactus” diagram below tells the story. For each car, the first coloured bar shows the number of person-kilometres (basically the number of laps times the average number of people in the car). Cars mostly ran full (although PrISUm ran with only 2 people). Onda Solare (559) had less than 4 people in the car for a few laps (they also had technical problems, which is why they scored no laps on Day 3). As the first chart showed, Minnesota clocked up almost as many laps as the top 3 Challengers, which is why it has the tallest bar here.

For each car, 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. And in the brilliant sunshine of Hastings, the Minnesota car refused recharge opportunities, drinking in the sun like the Challenger (SOV) cars. 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%). The high lap count and low external energy input put Minnesota way ahead in the final scoring. Ultimately, this was due to the beautiful and efficient aerodynamics of their car. Third place was decided on AppState’s battery (11.025 kWh, compared to 15.876 for Waterloo).

Minnesota drinking in the sun (picture credit)

The road race for the Cruiser (MOV) class will be interesting. We will, I think, see more strategic refusal to recharge from the grid (which we have not seen at WSC), and we might see Minnesota, with its small (6.75 kWh) battery, struggle a little in the mountains. Anything can still happen!

Meanwhile, one more picture to say farewell to Hastings, Nebraska:

Illini, Western Michigan, and Esteban on the track (picture credit)

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!

Midwestern Solar Challenge

On June 3, two of the top Cruiser-class solar cars held a Midwestern Solar Challenge, racing south from St Paul, MN to Ames, IA. The teams were:

Race news


Here is my (totally informal) scoring of the race (see the chart below):

  • Person-kilometres is the race distance times the average number of people carried (which I believe was 4 for PrISUm and 2 for UMNSVP). The first coloured bar shows this, scaled so that 100% is the highest value.
  • Energy input is the number of charges (1, in this case) times battery size. The second coloured bar shows this, scaled so that 100% is the highest value (this bar points downward, because smaller is better).
  • The third coloured bar shows the ratio of these numbers, scaled so that 80% is the highest ratio.
  • We add on (in grey) the practicality scores (I’m estimating 9 for PrISUm and 7 for UMNSVP), scaled so that 20% is the highest practicality.
  • This gives final scores of 100 for PrISUm and 82 for UMNSVP. Congratulations, PrISUm!
  • But will PrISUm still have the advantage when it needs to carry passengers uphill?

World Solar Challenge: dark horses

Recently I made a poster of the favourites (based purely on 2015 performance) for the 2017 WSC. Here is a somewhat more subjective list of new, innovative, and rising teams. All worth watching! For more details, see my annotated list of teams.

World Solar Challenge head to head: USA Cruisers

The World Solar Challenge is an exciting race to find the best solar car in the world. That makes for serious competition between countries. But there are also some interesting contests within countries. The most obvious is between Nuon (3) and Twente (21), who came first and second in the Challenger class last time.

Within the Cruiser class, the University of Minnesota (94 this year, Eos II, above) has been the only US entry since 2013, and held its own both times (see chart at top for 2015 results). This year, however, Iowa State University (PrISUm) has entered the class as well (9, Penumbra, below). Both teams have very nice-looking cars. Which of the two will be the biggest challenge to Eindhoven and Bochum?

World Solar Challenge: Day 7

Today in the World Solar Challenge, the last few non-trailered teams came in, causing me to reflect on how poorly I’ve covered Principia (team 32, USA). They weren’t the fastest car, nor did they run into spectacular problems – they just reliably covered 3,022 km of outback driving.

See the chart above for other cars, and click to zoom (data in the chart is taken from the official timing board, with the most obviously wrong numbers removed, and with some numbers added from twitter photographs taken at control stops). The three remaining non-trailered Cruisers also arrived: Sunswift (team 75, Australia), Bochum (team 11, Germany – who drained their battery dry getting to end of timing last night), and Minnesota (team 35, USA – who made it to end of timing with three minutes to spare).

A large number of trailered cars also arrived. It will be impossible to rank these until the official results are released. Among the six trailered Cruisers were Lodz (team 45, Poland – their vehicle would make a great city car) and ITS (team 31, Indonesia – which has same national colours),

We also had the “practicality judging” for Cruisers today. Sadly, the results have not been released. In the absence of official results, I’m just going to hand out my own awards – the Scientific Gems “gem awards.” And the first of these is the sexy car gem, which goes to Bochum, for building the car that several hundred drooling engineers (even those who had successfully optimised their own vehicle for speed) wished that they had built. Bochum even had real wood inlays in the dashboard!

The “sexy car gem” goes to Bochum, for the ThyssenKrupp SunRiser