June 21 in Solar Cars

June 21 was an eventful day in solar-car racing. The Belgian team revealed their zippy new car:

Nuon Solar Team set a world record, clocking up 882 km in a 12-hour track session.

Eindhoven have also unveiled their new car, and it’s gorgeous! It lacks the “tunnel” of their previous vehicle, and this allows them to seat a family of five:


More World Solar Challenge progress

The open road is calling teams for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, and JU Solar Team (battery box ready for shipping), Lodz Solar Team (battery box), Nuon Solar Team (world record attempt), Solar Team BE (unveiling Punch 2), and Singapore (dashboard design) are hearing that call.

In other news, Solar Team GB have pulled out of the race, and Eindhoven are due to unveil their car in a few hours.


Australia is waiting for the World Solar Challenge teams

Australia is waiting for contestants in the 2017 World Solar Challenge, the premier world contest in sustainable vehicle technology. The average maximum October temperature in the town of Katherine, on the Stuart Highway, is 37.7°C. Road trains are a frequent hazard on the highway, and past races have had to deal with fire as well. Sometimes things go wrong with the car. But it’s still an absolutely fantastic experience!


World Solar Challenge: lighter and lighter

The chart above shows car weights (in kg) for the World Solar Challenge Challenger class, since 2001. In spite of the increasing safety standards and the shift from 3 wheels to 4, weights have trended steadily downwards, which says something about the strength-to-weight ratio of modern composite materials.


Which is the best World Solar Challenge team?

Recently, I saw that someone had asked on the Internet which the best team in the World Solar Challenge was.

For the WSC Challenger class, this is not a difficult question. Nuon Solar Team owns the race, and has won six times out of eight this century (although “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”). The more interesting question is: who is second? There are four main contenders for that honour.

A few years ago, I would have placed Tokai University second. They won the race in 2009 and 2011. However, unless they can reverse the trend, their star seems to be falling.

Michigan are very definitely the best US team. However, they have pointed out themselves that they suffer “the curse of third,” and thus far lack the je ne sais quoi that it takes to win (of course, when they find it, Nuon had better watch out).

The star of Solar Team Twente is rising. They worked their way up to second place in 2015. They could win this year.

Finally, the Belgian team from KU Leuven is also moving up, and I expect them to do very well this year also.

In the WSC Cruiser class, “best” is a fuzzier concept. However, Eindhoven, Bochum, and UNSW/Sunswift have all done consistently well, with Eindhoven winning the last two races.


More World Solar Challenge preparations

Across the world, solar car teams continue to prepare for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, turning dreams into functioning vehicles (Instagram memories from Michigan, Belgium, Jönköping, Nuon, Lodz, and me). Meanwhile, the road from Darwin to Adelaide is waiting.

Who’s your local team?


Solar Car Racing Team Sizes


Solar Team Eindhoven

I’ve been hearing some curiosity about the sizes of solar car teams, and so I checked out the online team lists for Punch, Bochum, Twente, Eindhoven, Nuon, Lodz, Michigan, MIT, PrISUm, and Sunswift. The histogram below summarises what I found. The superb Bochum team is the largest, with 77 members. Champions Nuon have the smallest team, with 16. Apparently it’s not just size that is important.

See also my list of WSC solar car teams.