Best WSC car name award


Red Shift, the car from Solar Team Twente

It has been my tradition to hand out “Gem Awards” after major solar car races. This year, I’m beginning rather early, awarding the “Best Solar Car Name” gem to Solar Team Twente, for their car name, Red Shift.

Twente’s car name is a reference to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as well as being a really, really geeky way of saying eat my dust. It also continues the naming sequence previously established with their Red Engine (2013) and Red One (2015). Good luck for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, guys!


There was strong competition, but the 2017 “Best Solar Car Name” gem goes to Solar Team Twente


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.


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.


World Solar Challenge preparations continue

Across the world, solar car teams are preparing for the 2017 World Solar Challenge, turning dreams into functioning vehicles (Instagram memories from Twente, Aachen, Belgium, Stanford, Belgium again, and USC). Who’s your local team?


A solar car racing year

Here is a salute to the winners of the major solar car races this year:

Congratulations to Equipo Solar KAN, Michigan, Twente, and Nuon… and looking forward to seeing teams from across the world in Australia a year from now!