Solar cars – From the Outback to the Oregon Trail

As I watch the lead-up to the American Solar Challenge next July, above are the entries that previously raced in the World Solar Challenge in Australia last year. Left to right from the top, they are Michigan (came 2nd), Iowa State University / PrISUm (raced in the Cruiser class), Western Sydney (came 6th), Illini (participated in the Adventure class), Principia (raced, but trailered after 2390 km), and Minnesota (raced in the Cruiser class).

Several different approaches are visible here to building a car for both races. It’s easier to do so in the Cruiser class, for a start. Illini chose to build their car for the ASC and race it non-competitively in Australia. Principia built their car for both events (unveiling it at FSGP 2017). Michigan and Western Sydney built their cars specifically for the WSC, and may have to adapt the cars for the American race (last ASC, Michigan had to modify their car, and then incurred a daily 6-minute race penalty because the modifications made the car too wide).

My ASC race information page will be updated from time to time with information on the progress of these and all the other teams.


Advertisements

Solar car team composition

The chart above shows 2017 team composition for the Eindhoven and Bochum solar car teams (divided by study major, not team responsibility). Not surprisingly, electrical and mechanical engineering students are the core of both teams (about half in each case) Yet there is also considerable diversity, because the business side of a solar car team requires other skills too. The Bochum team also includes a media unit, which explains the large “other” category (one of the team photographers is a biology student, for example).

The chart was constructed by parsing web pages, which may have introduced errors (also, I guessed a bit with the German words). But the main point stands – solar car teams require a diverse set of skills.


The Bochum car (photo: Anthony Dekker)


WSC: final Cruiser results

Based on the official results, the chart below (click to zoom) shows the final scores for the WSC Cruiser class. Each team has three coloured bars: first the number of person-kilometres, which should be large (black icons show occupied seats and white icons empty seats), then the energy usage, which should be small (number of charges, which is 6 in each case, times battery capacity), and finally the overall efficiency score, which should be large again (it is the ratio of those first two numbers). The rule for the efficiency score bar is: first bar divided by second bar, then scale so that the largest result is 80%. The scaled practicality scores out of 20 (grey bars) are then added. Eindhoven is the clear winner, with Bochum second.

The chart below (click to zoom) shows the raw practicality scores for all Cruisers (finishing, non-finishing, and non-starting).


WSC: One more gem award


Penumbra, the solar SUV from PrISUm

A belated “Huntin’ and Fishin’” gem award goes to the to PrISUm team from Iowa State University, for their roomy solar SUV capable of carrying an esky, tackle box, and other fishing gear.


The “Huntin’ and Fishin’” gem goes to PrISUm


WSC: three more gem awards


Interior of the thyssenkrupp blue.cruiser, the car from Hochschule Bochum

My “Sustainability” gem for the World Solar Challenge goes to Hochschule Bochum for their elegant interior, finished with renewable natural products such as pineapple leather, vegetable linens, wood, and cork.


The “Sustainability” gem goes to Hochschule Bochum

 


The car we did not see, Persian Gazelle 4 from the University of Tehran

The “Sexy Car” gem goes to the car we did not see, Persian Gazelle 4 from the University of Tehran. This car was heavily damaged in transit, and was unable to race. It looked beautiful, though, being reminiscent of a Lamborghini Aventador.


The “Sexy Car” gem goes to the University of Tehran

 


Red Shift, the car from Solar Team Twente

Previously awarded was the “Best Solar Car Name” gem, to Solar Team Twente, for their car name, Red Shift. Twente’s car name was a reference to the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as well as continuing the naming sequence previously established with their Red Engine (2013) and Red One (2015) – and being a really, really geeky way of saying “eat my dust.” The car was indeed very fast.


The “Best Solar Car Name” gem went to Solar Team Twente


WSC: three gem awards


Nuna9, the car from Nuon Solar Team

It has been my tradition to hand out “Gem Awards” after major solar car races. This WSC, the “Faster Than Lightning” gem again goes to Nuon Solar Team, the undefeated Challenger champions.


The 2017 “Faster Than Lightning” gem goes to Nuon Solar Team

 


Stella Vie, the car from Solar Team Eindhoven

The “Solar Family Car” gem again goes to Solar Team Eindhoven. They completely dominated the Cruiser class.


The 2017 “Solar Family Car” gem goes to Solar Team Eindhoven

 


Western Sydney Solar Team

The “Solar Car Family” gems go to Western Sydney Solar Team, for the way that they welcomed international teams passing through Sydney. Western Sydney Solar Team are, of course, also Australian champions in the Challenger class.


The 2017 “Solar Car Family” gems go to Western Sydney Solar Team