Solar cars – From the Outback to the Oregon Trail

As I watch the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July, above are the entries that previously raced in the World Solar Challenge in Australia last year. Left to right from the top, they are Michigan (came 2nd), Iowa State University / PrISUm (raced in the Cruiser class), Western Sydney (came 6th), Illini (participated in the Adventure class), Principia (raced, but trailered after 2390 km), and Minnesota (raced in the Cruiser class).

Several different approaches are visible here to building a car for both races. It’s easier to do so in the Cruiser class, for a start. Illini chose to build their car for the ASC and race it non-competitively in Australia. Principia built their car for both events (unveiling it at FSGP 2017). Michigan and Western Sydney built their cars specifically for the WSC, and may have to adapt the cars for the American race (last ASC, Michigan had to modify their car, and then incurred a daily 6-minute race penalty because the modifications made the car too wide).

My ASC race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these and all the other teams.


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American Solar Challenge status check

Just a quick status check on the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July. As my race information page indicates, we still have 39 solar car teams from 8 countries registered. But when we check the status of pre-race documents due last December, another story emerges:

The histogram is tri-modal. First, there is a group of 21 teams that are on schedule, or close to it. Most of them also show good signs of progress on social media. Then there are 12 teams that are well behind schedule. And finally, there are 6 teams that have submitted almost none of the required documents, raising serious doubts as to whether they will actually turn up.

My race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these teams. In July, I plan to blog about the race itself.


Model of the Italian Cruiser-class entry (picture credit)


Upcoming solar car races for 2018


photo: Anthony Dekker

I am aware of four major solar car races this year (not including the Japanese races):


photo: SASOL Solar Challenge


American Solar Challenge: 6 months to go

Scrutineering for the 2018 American Solar Challenge starts on July 6. The chart below summarises the 39 solar car teams from 8 countries which have registered for the race. Many of them are frantically building or modifying cars – see my race information page. The race will run through the mountains from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon. Follow the leadup to the race here and on the official ASC Facebook at  


Democracy, Religion, and Same-Sex Marriage in Australia

The results of the postal survey are in, and Australia has voted 61.6% “Yes” to same-sex marriage. Or rather, it seems that two Australias voted. The official results have been made available by electorate, which means that they can be correlated with demographic factors (and my readers know that I love doing that). The average age of each electorate had no effect, but religious composition certainly did.

According to the 2016 census, Australia’s stated religious composition looks like this (where the 33.3% “Secular” includes Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, New Age, and Unitarian Universalist):

The chart below shows a strong correlation (0.82) between the percentage of “Secular” people in an electorate, and the size of the “Yes” vote. If all the “Secular” people voted “Yes” (as seems likely), this means that 58% of the religious people voted “No.” Doing some simple multiple linear regression, there was a statistically significant link between religion and voting “No” for every major religious group. This link was strongest for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Orthodox, the Uniting Church, and other non-Anglican Protestants. It was a little weaker for Anglicans and even more for Catholics, although the Anglican link was quite strong in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. The Catholic link was quite strong in the last three of those states.

Electorates in the chart are coloured according to the largest religious group within them. Sydney is 52.7% Secular, for example (as well as 8.6% Buddhist, 1.7% Muslim, 1.7% Hindu, 1% Jewish, 17.9% Catholic, 2.4% Orthodox, 13.5% Protestant, and 0.5% Other Religion). It voted 83.7% “Yes.”

Blaxland is 32.2% Muslim (as well as 9% Buddhist, 3.3% Hindu, 21.2% Catholic, 5.5% Orthodox, 13.2% Protestant, 0.7% Other Religion, and 14.9% Secular). It voted 73.9% “No.”

McMahon is 39% Catholic (as well as 5.9% Buddhist, 12.4% Muslim, 2.9% Hindu, 6.9% Orthodox, 18.5% Protestant, 1.4% Other Religion, and 13.2% Secular). It voted 64.9% “No.”

Barton is multi-religious with 28.1% Secular being the largest group (as well as 5.6% Buddhist, 8.4% Islam, 5.6% Hindu, 0.2% Jewish, 22.6% Catholic, 15.7% Orthodox, 13.3% Protestant, and 0.5% Other Religion). It voted 56.4% “No.”

It does seem that there is a secular Australia, which voted overwhelmingly “Yes,” and a religious Australia of twice the size, which voted mostly “No.” If the disparate religious communities in Australia realise that they have more in common than they have thought, that could have quite a significant influence on Australian politics in the future.


A (distorted) geographical view of the postal survey results


American Solar Challenge: 8 months away

The American Solar Challenge will be held next July, and I have put together an annotated teams list for that event. Following qualification at Motorsport Park Hastings, Nebraska, the race will run through the mountains from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon. The map above shows the approximate route on an elevation map of the northwest US. It will be interesting to see how the solar cars cope with the uphill climb


World Solar Challenge: dynamic scrutineering

The table below shows the lap times and speeds (assuming a 2,870 m track) for the World Solar Challenge cars in dynamic scrutineering. These times are now final.

The table also has links to photos and to team social media. The fifth column of the table shows the car class (or, for Cruisers, the number of seats). For more detailed information about the teams, see my annotated teams list. For comparison, the chart (click to zoom) shows 2015 lap speeds. It can be seen that several teams are running substantially slower than in 2015, although Singapore and Nagoya are a lot faster. Overall, speeds are about 93% of 2015 speeds for Challengers, and 90% for Cruisers (qualifying with all passengers aboard seems to have slowed Cruisers down):

2  2:19.5 74.1 kph 14 Cha Michigan 
3  2:14.1 77 kph 4 Cha Nuon 
4  2:48.0 61.5 kph 28 Cha Antakari 
5  2:30.3 68.7 kph 23 2-st Singapore 
7  2:17.3 75.3 kph 7 Cha Adelaide 
8  2:03.8 83.5 kph ★★★ Cha Punch 
9  2:32.1 67.9 kph 24 4-st PrISUm  – see video
10  2:19.4 74.1 kph 13 Cha Tokai 
11  2:16.8 75.5 kph 6 4-st Bochum 
12     Cha Cambridge 
14     3-st Flinders 
15  2:06.4 81.7 kph 3 Cha WSU  – see video
16  2:21.6 73 kph 16 Cha Stanford 
18  4:04.3 42.3 kph 35 Cha EcoPhoton 
20  3:09.4 54.6 kph 31 Cha Durham 
21  3:15.6 52.8 kph 32 Cha Twente  – see video
22  2:26.1 70.7 kph 21 Cha MDH 
23     4-st Tehran 
25  2:04.9 82.7 kph ★★ Cha Nagoya 
28  2:46.6 62 kph 27 Cha KNUT 
30  2:18.5 74.6 kph 9 2-st Arrow 
32  2:24.2 71.7 kph 20 Cha Principia 
34     Cha RVCE 
35  2:22.7 72.4 kph 19 2-st HK IVE 
37  2:38.6 65.1 kph 26 Cha Goko 
38  2:28.4 69.6 kph 22 Cha NWU 
40  2:22.1 72.7 kph 18 5-st Eindhoven  – see video
42  4:03.5 42.4 kph 34 2-st TAFE SA 
43  3:06.6 55.4 kph 30 Cha ANU 
45  2:35.8 66.3 kph 25 5-st Lodz 
46  2:51.7 60.2 kph 29 Cha JU 
49  4:18.1 40 kph 36 2-st Siam Tech 
52  5:06.7 33.7 kph 37 Adv Illini 
53     38 Adv Choctaw 
70  2:15.9 76 kph 5 Cha Aachen  – see video
71  2:19.1 74.3 kph 12 Cha ITU 
75  2:18.6 74.5 kph 10 4-st Sunswift 
77  2:18.3 74.7 kph 8 Cha Blue Sky 
82  2:21.8 72.9 kph 17 Cha KUST 
88  2:20.4 73.6 kph 15 Cha Kogakuin 
94  2:18.8 74.4 kph 11 2-st Minnesota 
95  4:01.5 42.8 kph 33 2-st Apollo  – see video