World Solar Challenge car sizes

The infographic above (click to zoom) shows the reported length and width of eight World Solar Challenge cars. The widest car (at 1.8 m) is that of the Swedish MDH Solar Team (although this car has large bites taken out of each side). The two family Cruisers from Eindhoven and Lodz (dashed lines) are also quite wide, and take full advantage of the maximum allowed length of 5 m.

The Belgian Punch Powertrain Solar Team has produced a very short zippy Challenger class car (illustrated), and Nuon’s car (not shown) seems of a similar size. In contrast, Michigan has a long narrow bullet car, powered by GaAs solar cells. Twente, using Si cells, has a substantially longer car than Punch, but a narrower one. It will be very interesting to see how these differences play out in the race, come October.

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:

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.

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.

West European Solar Party

Solar Team Eindhoven has been hosting WESP 2016, the West European Solar Party.

If the pictures on Facebook are any indication, everybody had a good time. Since “wesp” is Dutch for “wasp,” several people turned up in appropriate costume. Building and racing solar cars is a stressful business, so the teams certainly deserved a party!

Teams attending the event included (among others):

Lodz Solar Team (some of them)

Nuon Solar Team (some of them)

Praising Eindhoven

Eindhoven University of Technology campus (photo: Arno van den Tillaart)

The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is one of the world’s premier technical institutions. It is ranked 62nd in the world on the Times Higher Education list of engineering institutions. I have been privileged to meet students from TU/e on a number of occasions, and they are among the best in the world.

TU/e was founded in 1956. The city of Eindhoven is home to Philips, DAF Trucks, and the High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Among other things, the university acts as a feeder school to those companies, and this requires both a practical focus and a solid basis in mathematics and theory.

TU/e is one of three Dutch technical universities (Delft and Twente being the others). All three run solar car teams, which showcase the students’ technical expertise. Eindhoven’s team has won the World Solar Challenge Cruiser class in both 2013 and 2015, with their “solar family cars” (see this article in IEEE Spectrum).

Eindhoven’s solar car Stella Lux at the 2015 World Solar Challenge, where it won the Cruiser class (my photo)

WSC Results (2)

The World Solar Challenge has finally released official results of the race (for Challengers, Cruisers, and Adventure class), and the chart below shows the breakdown of scores for the top five Cruiser class cars. As in my 2013 version of this chart, each coloured left-hand-side bar is the sum of the other four bars with the same colour.

The times used for scoring by the WSC are based, as far as I can see, on the time from Darwin to Adelaide (rather than to the so-called “end of timing” point) minus the waiting time at control stops and at Alice Springs. I suspect that Kogakuin might have won had they chosen not to recharge at Alice Springs (which would have slowed them down a little, but would have cost everybody else 7.5 points). As it was, Kogakuin’s speed advantage of 2.7 points almost exactly counterbalanced Eindhoven’s passenger advantage of 2.5 points, leaving practicality to decide the winner.

For comparison, here is the 2013 version of this chart. This year, the external energy use component decreased from 18.9% to 15%, the speed component increased from 56.6% to 70%, the passenger-carrying component decreased slightly from 5.7% to 5%, and the practicality-judging component decreased from 18.9% to 10%