Solar Car Racing Status Check #3

In solar car racing news, 29 teams are registered for the American Solar Challenge (ASC) in July. Scrutineering for this race begins on July 6, track racing on July 10, and the road race runs from July 14 to July 22. I am maintaining a detailed information page and teams list for this race. Five teams are attending with cars that raced at WSC 2017 (including one Australian team), although these cars will require adjustment to satisfy ASC rules. Seven other teams had existing cars (including one Russian team). The remaining teams have been building new cars.


ETS’s beautiful new car, Éclipse X, was unveiled on 16 May (picture credit)

Recently unveiled cars for the ASC include Missouri S&T (18 April), Poly Montreal / Esteban (23 April), Georgia Tech (24 April), and ETS Quebec / Eclipse (16 May). A couple of teams have (very sadly) dropped out, while many other teams are frantically working on their cars. Iowa State University (PrISUm) and the University of Minnesota are holding a practice mini-race on June 3 (with cars on display at the Science Museum of Minnesota the day before). Full details on all teams and latest news here.


Many ASC teams are frantically working on their cars – AppState is shown, and they plan to reveal their car on June 22 (picture credit)

The Albi Eco Race was held on May 25 and 26. Bochum won with their SolarWorld GT, while Dokuz Eylül University / Solaris came second, and Polytech Clermont-Ferrand / Bélénos third. Details here.


Albi Eco Race cars (picture credit)

Fourteen teams have registered so far for the 24 hour iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) at Circuit Zolder in Belgium (September 19 to 23), and Twente will be defending their title there. World champions Nuon might also attend (with an old car). I am maintaining an information page and teams list for this race as well. See also the official iESC social media at  


Circuit Zolder seen from above (imagery: Landsat, solar car photo: Bochum, chart: Scientific Gems). Sunset/sunrise and the phase of the moon are correct for the date

Preparations are also continuing for the SASOL Solar Challenge in South Africa (September 22 to 30). Defending champions Nuon and Japanese team Tokai will attend this event, along with local teams, such as North-West University, Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Johannesburg, Vaal University of Technology, Central University of Technology, and the University of Cape Town.


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Albi Eco Race 2018


Timetable (click to zoom)

The Albi Eco Race at Circuit d’Albi in France this weekend had five solar car teams in addition to their other race classes (see also the race start). The weather was fine. You can check out the copious FB photographs from Eco Solar Breizh or the official social media (  and  ). Final results are shown below.


Albi Eco Race cars (image credit)

FR  Eco Solar Breizh 

This team came 14th at Abu Dhabi 2015. It is a French (or rather, Breton) team, started in 2008. They also raced at ESC in 2014, and came third in the 2017 Albi Eco Race. Their car is called Heol, and is a symmetric design. They recently got new solar panels. Final result: 5th.

FR  Bélénos 

This team is from Polytech Clermont-Ferrand. They raced at WSC 2009. Final result: 3rd.

FR  Lycée Jehan de Beauce (Project 28)

This team, from Lycée Jehan de Beauce in Chartres, fielded two cars: SolCar28 (illustrated) and WattSun28. Final result: 4th (WattSun28) and 6th (SolCar28).

DE  Bochum University of Applied Sciences 

This team came 2nd in the WSC 2013 Cruiser class. They came 3rd in the WSC 2015 Cruiser class. They came 2nd in the WSC 2017 Cruiser class. They came second in the 2017 Albi Eco Race. They drove to Circuit d’Albi with their 2011 car, SolarWorld GT. They also took their incredibly beautiful 2015 car, the ThyssenKrupp SunRiser. Both are 2-seat Cruisers. Final result: 1st (SolarWorld GT, 103 laps or 367 km) and 7th (SunRiser, 100 laps but late-race battery problems).

TR  Dokuz Eylül University / Solaris 

This team came 25th at WSC 2015. They came 9th at ESC 2016. Their car is called Destech Solaris, and is a symmetric design. They arrived at Albi very early Friday morning, after a long trip. Final result: 2nd.

This page last updated 15:52 on 27 May 2018 AEST


Solar Car Racing Status Check #2


Tokai, who came 4th at WSC 2017, will race against Nuon at SASOL this year (photo: Anthony Dekker)

In further solar car racing news, preparations are continuing for the SASOL Solar Challenge in South Africa (September 22 to 30). Defending champions Nuon and Japanese team Tokai will attend this event, along with local teams, such as North-West University.


The Belgian car, Punch 2, which came 3rd at WSC 2017, will be challenging Twente at iESC this year (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Thirteen teams have registered so far for the 24 hour iLumen European Solar Challenge (iESC) in Belgium (September 19 to 23), and Twente will be defending their title there. I am maintaining an information page and teams list for this race. See also the official iESC social media at  


Western Sydney’s car, Unlimited 2.0, which came 6th at WSC 2017, will race at ASC this year (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Thirty-two teams have registered for the American Solar Challenge (ASC) in July. Scrutineering for this race begins on July 6, track racing on July 10, and the road race runs from July 14 to July 22. I am maintaining a detailed information page and teams list for this race too.


Missouri’s new car, Independence, was unveiled on 18 April (picture credit)

Five teams are attending with cars that raced at WSC 2017 (including one Australian team), although these cars will require adjustment to satisfy ASC rules. Seven other teams had existing cars (including one Russian team). The remaining teams have been building new cars.


Poly Montreal’s new car, Esteban 9, was unveiled on 23 April (picture credit)

Recently unveiled cars for the ASC include Missouri S&T (18 April), Poly Montreal / Esteban (23 April), and Georgia Tech (24 April). There are 17 cars still to be unveiled.


Georgia Tech’s new car, SR-2, was unveiled on 24 April (picture credit)


Solar Car Racing Status Check

In solar car racing news, preparations are beginning for the SASOL Solar Challenge in South Africa (September 22 to 30). It seems that both Nuon and Tokai will attend this event, along with local teams.


Nuon at WSC 2017 (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Thirteen teams have registered so far for the 24 hour iLumen European Solar Challenge in Belgium (September 19 to 23), and Twente will be defending their title there. I am maintaining an information page and teams list for this race. See also the official iESC social media at  


Twente at WSC 2017 (photo: Anthony Dekker)

The American Solar Challenge is a lot closer than those two races, with scrutineering beginning on July 6, track racing on July 10, and the road race running from July 14 to July 22. I am maintaining a detailed information page and teams list for this race. At last count, 34 teams were registered, with Anderson, UCSD, Principia, UC Irvine, Phoenix, and UT Austin having, sadly, dropped out.

Six teams are attending with cars that raced at WSC 2017, although these cars will require adjustment to satisfy ASC rules (Michigan, Western Sydney, Principia, and Illini, plus the Cruisers PrISUm and Minnesota). Six other teams are attending with cars that previously raced at ASC.


PrISUm at WSC 2017 (photo: Anthony Dekker)

Twenty-two other teams are frantically building cars for ASC. Car unveils that have been announced include team 42 (Missouri) on 18 April, team 55 (Esteban) on 23 April, team 101 (Eclipse) in mid May, team 828 (AppState) in mid June, and team 65 (Calgary) on 16 June.


Missouri’s unfinished car (picture credit)

See my detailed information page and teams list for this race for more information and for social media links. I will continue to update that page as news comes in.


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


Lotus Blue: a book review


Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks (377 pages, published 2017)

I recently read, with great enjoyment, the hot new post-apocalyptic novel Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks. I’m a sucker for the genre, and this novel has shades of Dune, Mad Max, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and the works of Roger Zelazny – yet is not derivative. As a fan of the trans-Australia World Solar Challenge, I particularly liked the caravan of solar trucks on the cover. The cover also shows the falling satellite which marks the emergent threat to the world of the novel.

While opening with a solar-powered trading caravan, the novel has a few flashbacks to the three centuries of war that created the dystopian world of the story: “Mighty tankers were on the move, travelling in tight formation grids. Working together, not attacking each other. Not something you saw every day. Those mechabeasts had once roamed wild and free, following their own whims, their own flights of fancy. But something had changed. Something had gotten hold of their minds. Synchronous rhythm locked them into step. For Marianthe, the sight brought on a stream of flashbacks: glory days, when command and strategy spiked through her arteries like a virus. Like a drug. A platoon full of hearts beating in syncopation. You could feel your brother and sister soldiers, know they had your back, your breath, your sweat.” I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but of course that savage past collides with the protagonist’s present, and that’s where the adventure begins.

Some readers seem to have found the world, and the range of characters, somewhat confusing; I thought the level of complexity of the novel was just about perfect. I enjoyed both the characters and the world in which they were set. This book has had a fair bit of revision and polishing before hitting the shelves, and it shows (although a plethora of typos suggests some rather poor final editing). My only real complaint was that, although I liked Star, the 17-year-old protagonist, I would have liked to have seen more of her older sister Nene, the healer (why does Nene just vanish from the story?). With luck, this novel will have a sequel or two.

By the way, a blog post I read recently suggested that the protagonist of a young adult (YA) novel should:

  • Be aged between 15 to 18 years old (Star is 17)
  • Be autonomous from his or her parents (Star is an orphan)
  • Embark on a journey which has to do with coming of age or some sort of rite of passage (Yes, she does)
  • Learn something about who he or she is (Yes, in spades)
  • Have a ‘voice’ that readers can relate to (Yes again)

So OK, this is a YA novel, although it has not been specifically marketed as such. What that means is that it suits the age range from 14 up to and including adult (as opposed to, say, Great North Road, which is written for adults only). Having said that, for the benefit of parents of younger readers, I should point out that there is some bad language, but that the only mention of sexuality is 25 words on page 3: “Remy. Star should never have slept with him. He’d been hanging around her ever since, as if she would ever make the same mistake again.” And Star has quite a clear sense of what is, and is not, the right thing to do.

For me, this novel ended with a “Planet of the Apes” moment, since Cat Sparks has set part of the novel in the vicinity of her home town of Canberra, Australia. Calling one of the fortress cities “Nisn” was a clue I missed first time around – but I could hardly miss the reference to the Brindabella Range. I also finished this book with a strong sense of wanting to read more from this author. Lotus Blue was one of the best books I’ve read this year.


Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks: 4 stars


World Solar Challenge: solar cells

Part of the rule changes for the 2017 World Solar Challenge was a change to allowable solar cell array areas. In the Challenger class, the limits became 4 m2 for silicon and 2.64 m2 for multijunction gallium arsenide (in the Cruiser class, 5 m2 and 3.3 m2, which is the same ratio). Depending on the efficiencies of the two technologies, we therefore get the following comparison:

There are two important caveats, however. First, the cars in the World Solar Challenge will be getting pretty hot. The performance of multijunction GaAs degrades less with heat than that of silicon, so this increases the benefit for GaAs beyond that shown in the chart. For example, if we assume a 24%/35% efficiency combination for Si/GaAs, with temperature coefficients of power of 0.4%/0.2%, then the red dots in the chart show a GaAs advantage above about 43°C.

Secondly, the use of a 2.64 m2 GaAs array allows teams to build a smaller (and hence more aerodynamic) car, as Nuon and Punch have done. This increases the benefit for GaAs even further. Consequently, the five favourites (Nuon, Twente, Tokai, Michigan, and Punch) are all capable of winning the race, but the teams that switched to GaAs might have made a good move.

Update – the graph below clarifies the temperature-dependence for the two technologies (assuming a 24%/35% efficiency combination for Si/GaAs, and temperature coefficients of power of 0.4%/0.2%):