I will need to re-do this at some point, but the poster below shows the favourites (based purely on 2015 performance) for the 2017 World Solar Challenge (click to zoom). There is a very interesting mix of designs this year! For more details, see my annotated list of teams.
The World Solar Challenge is an exciting race to find the best solar car in the world. That makes for serious competition between countries. But there are also some interesting contests within countries. The most obvious is between Nuon (3) and Twente (21), who came first and second in the Challenger class last time.
Within Japan, Tokai University (10, Tokai Challenger, above) has a long tradition of excellence in the Challenger class, winning in 2009 and 2011, and coming at least 3rd since then (see chart at top). Their elegant new car is radically different from anything else in the competition, and looks fast.
Kogakuin University (88) raced in the Cruiser class in 2015, with an innovative design that almost won. This year, they have an equally innovative car in the Challenger class (Wing, below). Can Kogakuin take over the leading Challenger role in Japan? Can their car win against the equally streamlined Tokai vehicle? Or will Goko or Nagoya make a dramatic leap upwards from their 14th-place and 16th-place finishes in 2015? Only time will tell.
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.
Nuon Solar Team (Netherlands)
Nuon won the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge and the 2015 World Solar Challenge. They are the clear favourites for this year’s event.
It seems that Tokai will be back in South Africa this year, to challenge Nuon for first place.
North-West University (South Africa)
NWU came 11th in the the 2015 World Solar Challenge, ahead of South African rivals UKZN. They should do well on home turf this year.
Lodz Solar Team (Poland)
The team from Lodz will, I understand, be taking their lovely Eagle One cruiser to South Africa this year.
This seems to be a new team, who are building an old-school symmetrical 4-wheel car.
Anadolu Solar Team (Turkey)
Anadolu were in the top 20 at WSC15. If I understand their (Tukish) web page correctly, they are off to South Africa as well.
Not competing this year are UKZN.
Update: Google is reporting the Sasol Solar Challenge website as potentially hacked (and a quick glance at the page HTML makes it clear why), so exercise more than usual caution. Trend Micro, scanurl.net, and urlvoid.com report no major concerns, but the website is of limited value anyway, being mostly about the 2014 race.
I was very happy to see the lead seven World Solar Challenge cars arrive in Adelaide today. The cars, with their approximate arrival times in Darwin time, were Nuon (team 3, Netherlands, 10:26), Twente (team 21, Netherlands, 10:35), Tokai (team 10, Japan, 11:20) – shown above – and Michigan (team 2, USA, 11:24), Punch (team 8, Belgium, 11:49), Stanford (team 16, USA, 13:54), and Kecskemét (team 23, Hungary, 15:34) – shown below. Add an hour to those times for Adelaide time, and another 20 minutes or so for them to get across the city from the timing point to Victoria Square.
Below is another race chart (as always, click to zoom). Data is taken from the official timing board for days 1 to 5 (but two obviously incorrect datapoints have been removed). In this chart, the distance is horizontal, and the vertical axis expresses time, specifically how many hours each car is behind a car driving at exactly 97.42 km/h (that’s the speed which would get a car into Adelaide at exactly closing time yesterday). Final positions on the vertical axis correspond to arrival times (but add an hour for Adelaide time, and another 20 minutes or so to get to Victoria Square). I have included Cruisers in this chart – note the compulsory overnight stop in Alice Springs for Cruiser cars.
I expect twelve cars to arrive during the course of Friday, including the top three Cruisers. The rules specify that “Solarcars must not proceed south of Port Augusta after 11:00 (Darwin time = 12:00 Adelaide time). Solarcars already running south of this point must trailer from this time.” It remains to be seen how many other cars will squeeze in under this limit to get into Adelaide on Saturday morning. In what I have started calling the B race, cars that have been trailered at some point will try to clock up as many solar kilometres as possible, given that limit, together with the closures of the Glendambo and Coober Pedy control stops at 11:20 and 14:00 tomorrow.
And here are the car positions this evening:
10 Tokai University Solar Car Team (Tokai Challenger)
The team from Tokai University won the World Solar Challenge in 2009 and 2011, after four straight Nuon wins. In 2013, however, Nuon fought back, leaving Tokai in 2nd place. Since then, Tokai has won the 2014 Carrera Solar Atacama and has come 7th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge. This year, they are no doubt hoping to recapture first place in the WSC with their new car (above and below). Technical details of the vehicle (in Japanese) are here. In particular, they report solar cells of 23.2% efficiency. Good luck, team 10!
For up-to-date lists of all World Solar Challenge 2015 teams, see: