Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Introduction, and September WSC 2015 Team Status Update

Hey folks;

Since Jeroen has unexpectedly departed from solar car reporting (best of luck with whatever's happening, dude!), we figured that we should make blog for reporting from the ground at the World Solar Challenge this year. Keep an eye on this space, as well as WSC coverage-from-afar from Scientific Gems.

Without further introduction, let's take a quick survey of where all of the teams are at as of the start of September - There's only a little over a month to go until static inspection starts! Grouped by class and in order by team number:

Challenger Class

2: University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is one of the oldest names in solar car racing, having first raced in the 1990 GM SunRayce. They've finished 3rd at WSC five times (including 2005, 2009, and 2011), but never higher. UM was one of four teams that tried out an asymmetric catamaran at WSC 2013, and it didn't go so well for them - Generation was blown off the road and ended up in 9th place overall, and they were certainly not among the front runners before the accident. There were a lot of rumors about a team meltdown prior to the event, bad team relations with critical alumni, a shorted solar array during the event... There was so much gossip and UM is so secretive that it's hard to separate the truth from the fiction. But rumors aside, let's be honest, Generation was visibly a little rough around the edges - the design and execution was certainly not up to the standards of Quantum or Infinium (their 2011 and 2009 WSC cars, respectively).

Visibly bumped-out driver pod
(image source)
The team seems to have bounced back from WSC 2013, however. They brought back Quantum for the 2014 American Solar Challenge and came home with the trophy, and earlier this year they won the inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge with Quantum as well. (Aside: with two wins at ASC in '12 and '14, 3rd place at WSC in '11, and a win at ADSC in '15, I think Quantum may be the winningest solar car ever)

Michigan's new car is called Aurum, and it looks really slick. The team seems quietly confident that they can do better than 3rd place this year. They built a complete mechanical mule to validate their suspension dynamics ahead of building the car, which I like to see.

Carbon "cage", safety... third?
(image source)
The car is fully asymmetric - it's not just a driver canopy sticking up on one side of an otherwise-symmetric catamaran, the driver pod actually sticks out side side of the car. I like to see this sort of "outside the box" thinking (pun, sorry, couldn't resist), and I'm sad that WSC basically mandated rectangular cars again when they shrunk the maximum length down to 4.5m in 2013. Besides, what's the point of an asymmetric car if you're not going to fully commit to asymmetry? Michigan had a little bit of extra room to play with since they trim their solar cells, which not many teams have the resources to do.

I'm not sure how I feel about that carbon fiber "rollcage", though...

AMERICA'S NUMBER ONE TEAM completed a mock race around Michigan last month, and Aurum is already on the ground in Australia, so the team must be prepping for some final testing before WSC starts next month.

3: Nuon Solar Team

Nuna8 (image source)
They're the champs, what else is there to say? The team from Delft took the solar car community by storm when they won the WSC in 2001; their first time at the event. The proceeded to win WSC four times in a row, came second to Tokai in 2009 and 2011, and took back 1st place with an asymmetric catamaran in 2013.

Nuna8 is clearly an evolutionary car, not a revolutionary car. It looks very similar to Nuna7 two years ago. The most visible change is the greatly increased front overhang, and similarly reduced rear overhang. This will certainly help maintain laminar flow over the forward portions of the car - and Nuon is very good at aero tricks (pg 17-20 are illuminating).

Nuna7 qualifying in 2013, displaying
the asymmetric array airfoil profile
(image source)
Nuon has (carefully, intentionally?) not published any pictures of Nuna8 directly from the front or side, so it's hard to tell if the array slants to the left, as it did on Nuna7, or if the underside is similarly concave...

Nuon is currently in Australia, although it's not clear if the car is unpacked yet. They've met up with Solar Team Eindhoven (a fellow team from the Netherlands) in Tennant Creek.

4: Antakari Solar Team

A new team to the sport in 2011, Antakari Solar Team from Chile won the 2011 and 2012 Carrera Solar Atacama in South America, and participated in the Adventure class at WSC in 2013. They built their 3rd car, Intikallpa III, as an asymmetric catamaran to compete in the 2014 Carrera Solar Atacama late last year, where they came in 2nd to Tokai's 2013 WSC car.

They claim to be building *another* new car, Intikallpa IV, for WSC this year. News is very thin - the only major update I can find is from mid-June and shows a car at the very earliest stages of construction, which is worrying.

5: EAFIT-EPM Solar Car Team

(image source)
EAFIT-EPM hails from Columbia, and was a brand new team at WSC 2013. They only completed 2505km of the 3022km route, but they are coming back to give the challenge another shot in 2015. They have build a clean looking asymmetric catamaran, named Primavera.

The team was one of only three teams to attempt to use concentrators in 2013, and they've hinted that they may have something up their sleeves this year.

The car is currently on the way to Australia.

7: MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team

MIT, another team with a long and storied history - reaching all the way back to the 1987 WSC. They were dominant in the USA in the 90s, notably winning SunRayce '95 by 18 minutes over the U of Minnesota and coming in 2nd in '97. They won their class at WSC 1999 (8th place overall), came in 6th at WSC 2001, and 3rd at WSC 2003. Tesseract came in 3rd at the 2005 North American Solar Challenge and then 6th at WSC in the fall. After a four year hiatus, MIT entered Eleanor into WSC 2009, achieving a great 5th place finish.

Eleanor in 2009 (image source)
The team has had a rough couple of years since then, however. Chopper Del Sol, their entry for WSC 2011, was a solid looking car, but the team may have spent too much time screwing around with wild ideas like rear-steer only and solid polyurethane wheels (neither of which ended up working), and not enough time on basic stuff like shipping logistics. Considering the battery issue alone, finishing 15th out of a field of 37 with 2222km completed was still pretty respectable.

Then they went on to finish dead last at ASC 2012 (hydroplaning into a street sign was bad, but it was critical battery issues that really did them in), and their entry to ASC 2014, Valkyrie, was simply shamefully bad in every possible way and failed to qualify. The less said about that car, the better.

Arcturus in 2015 (image source)
MIT's new car, Arcturus, is hopefully a return to success for the team. It looks well constructed, with good fit & finish and small panel gaps. It's certainly a return to a successful shape - it looks almost exactly like a 4-wheeled Eleanor, and there's also a lot of resemblance in the geometry of the frame and rollcage. I'd be tempted to speculate that they actually used the top mold from the '09 car, except the old car was built under the 5m regs and the new one is limited to 4.5m in length.

MIT's car is currently on a container ship bound for Australia.

8: Punch Powertrain Solar Team

(image source)
Punch Powertrain (Formerly Umicore, 2005-2011) had their best finish to date when Umicar Infinity finished in 2nd place to Nuon in 2007; very impressive for their second race ever. This was followed by Umicar Inspire's terrifying first-day crash at WSC 2009, and Umicar Imagine's battery fire at WSC 2011. Armed with a new title sponsor, Punch Powertrain's Indupol One finished 6th at WSC 2013.

Punch's new car, Punch One, is an asymmetric catamaran (sense a theme here yet?). It bears some resemblance to Nuon's new car, especially the long front/short rear overhang.

The car is currently being air freighted to Australia, and the team is traveling as well.

9: Adelaide University Solar Racing Team

(image source)
A rookie team; new for WSC 2015. They unveiled an asymmetric catamaran at the start of August. Although the turn signals blinked, there sure didn't seem to be a lot of wiring inside the car (and is that a wooden front wheel?). Still, they're a relatively local team and have some time to put all the finishing touches on.

10: Tokai University Solar Car Team

Not being able to read Japanese, it's a little hard to puzzle out the earlier history of the Tokai University team. A Tokai University team raced at WSC in 1993 and 1996, and a Tokai High School team raced in 1996 and 1999. The current Tokai team took Tokai Falcon to the inaugural South African Solar Challenge in 2008 and came home with the win, but prior to that, I believe the Falcon was built and raced by the Tokai-Shoyo high school; it had minimal (if any) support from the university at the solar car races in Greece in 2004 and in Taiwan in 2006.

2015 Tokai Challenger
Regardless of murky prior history, the Tokai University team easily won WSC 2009 with their new Tokai Challenger, and duplicated the feat again in 2011. They were one of the few teams to attempt an asymmetric catamaran when the new 4-wheel regs were issued for 2013, and ended up in 2nd place behind Nuon.

Between WSCs, the team has flown around the globe, winning the South African Solar Challenge in 2008, 2010, and 2012, winning the Carrera Solar Atacama in South America in 2014, and finishing 7th in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge in 2015. They are one of the few Japanese teams that *doesn't* regularly race in the Dream Cup at Suzuka, having last attended that event in 2007.

The team unveiled their new 4th-gen Challenger in late August of this year (aside: could they at least append a number behind the name?). Predictably, it's an asymmetric catamaran, and it has those same Sharp HIT solar cells that aren't available to any teams outside Japan. They've been testing out on the Bridgestone proving grounds, but I've been unable to determine if they're using the mysterious new Bridgestone Ecopia tires that Kogakuin was seen using two years ago. It would be nice to have another option for solar car tires beyond the Michelin Radial X or the inferior Schwalbe Energizer S.

Questionable driver ergonomics in
the 2013 Challenger
Photos of the interior of the car reveal an extremely well constructed car, and I believe that they're going to be doing all-wheel steering again - a trick they've been pulling every year since 2009 in order to achieve very slim wheel fairings. I also see a nice solid bulkhead in front of the driver, so they're not repeating the extremely questionable (some might say "terrifying") driver seating seen in the 2013 Challenger

The team is shipping the car out to Australia this week.

12: Cambridge University Eco Racing

Evolution (image source)
First racing in WSC in 2009, CUER finished 14th in 2009 and 25th in 2011, each time with a little over 1400km completed.

CUER's entry into WSC this year, Evolution, is a narrow bullet car that is superficially similar to their 2013 car Resolution. That didn't work so well for them last time around, when they rolled Resolution on three separate occasions before the start of the event, and were forced to withdraw. But Evolution is lower to the ground and has a 50% wider track width (compare: 20132015), and one hopes that they've learned their lesson and exhaustively tested the dynamics of the car. Evolution also actually looks complete - if I recall correctly, Resolution was hastily finished at the last minute, and details like the array on the sides of the canopy and the front wheel fairings were very poorly executed. Evolution looks much better all around.

Resolution in 2013 (image source)
Still, I'm confused - in 2013, their plan was to use large concentrated solar cell modules during static charging, which could have plausibly made the small car competitive. That plan involved carrying all of the heavy support structures for the modules in the chase van - including the extensive brackets to hold the cells and lenses at the correct relative positions to each other - with just the cells and lenses carried in the solar car itself. It was kind of a neat idea and was technically within the letter of rules, but I'd argue that the implementation severely violated the spirit of the rules.

Sure, teams have regularly carried charging stands in support vehicles before, but it's a convenience, not a necessity - teams can (and often do) manually point their arrays by simply having the team hold the car up. In contrast, CUER's array stand was not optional. There's no way they could have aligned the lenses and cells by hand - and the equipment carried in the support vehicles for setting up the concentrator array was comparable in weight to the solar car itself. Carrying spare parts around in support vehicles is one thing, but critical parts of the solar energy collector? Perhaps WSC also thought that it violated the spirit of the rules, because the rules changed significantly for 2015...

This year, the rules require anything and everything needed for charging the solar car to be carried within the solar car itself, and even if there was *room* for an origami-like folding support structure inside Evolution, the weight penalty for carrying all of that equipment around would be awful.

The claimed performance for the main array is also little hard to believe - 2.36sqm panel @ 750W = ~31.8% efficient cells, dang. As far as I know, both Emcore ZTJ and Spectrolab XTJ triple-junction cells currently top out around 29.5% (The other team with Gallium cells this year, Bochum, claims 29.2% on their array). Maaaybe CUER managed to get their hands on Emcore's quad-junction cells, which supposedly claim *minimum* 33% average efficiency? EDIT 9/30: Apparently I've been out of the PV world for too long; Nuon had 34% cells on their car in 2009, so CUER's claimed power is probably reasonable.

It's a cute little car, but I can't imagine that it has a snowball's chance in hell of being competitive under the 2015 ruleset, and I'm not sure why they're entering a car like this again except out of sheer stubbornness.

Evolution was packed up and shipped via ocean freight in mid-August, and had made it to Dubai at the start of September.

13: WSU Solar Car Project

 University of Western Sydney was a new team in 2013. They finished WSC in 11th place, with 2891km out of 3022km completed, which is quite a decent showing for a new team. Their new car (which I believe is called Unlimited) is being officially unveiled on September 15th. That said, they haven't been very secretive - they're building an asymmetric catamaran; there are a lot of photos of the car on their Facebook and photos of the all-carbon suspension are floating around on Twitter.

14: UKZN Solar Car

Testing Hulamin in July of 2015
(image source)
UKZN is a team from South Africa. It's a little hard to piece together their team history - they only have a Facebook page and a Twitter, no dedicated website - but it seems that they were a new team at the 2012 South African Solar Challenge. They entered an asymmetric catamaran into the 2014 South African Solar Challenge, finishing 3rd.

This year will be the first time they have attended WSC, and their car Hulamin appears to be an upgraded version of the car they raced in 2014. There's no word on shipping status on social media, but the car appeared to be complete months ago so I'm not particularly concerned.

15: Team Solaris

Solaris is a team from Dokuz Eylül University in Turkey. They competed in the Adventure Class with their car S7 at WSC in 2013, finishing about half of the distance. This year they are bringing their new car, S8, to compete in the Challenger Class.

They posted photos to Instagram that appeared to be packing the car back in mid July.

16: Stanford Solar Car Project

Arctan at Thunderhill in 2015
Stanford is a team from the USA with a long, complicated history. First competing at the 1990 SunRayce, Stanford has raced at WSC repeatedly, partnering with their fellow Californians from Berkley in some years, and competing against them in other years.

Recently, their fortunes have been looking up. They were one of the few teams at WSC 2013 to approach the new 4-wheel rules by building a thicker car (rather than a thin "five fairing" car).

Xenith at WSC in 2011
It was a pretty radical departure, considering how thin their 2011 car Xenith was. The thicker car paid off for Stanford when Luminos achieved a 4th-place finish, which I believe is their best finish at WSC ever. They were beaten by Twente in another thick car, and Tokai and Nuon with asymmetric catamarans.

This year, Stanford is entering Arctan, an asymmetric catamaran. One interesting note: Like their 2013 car, Arctan is a monocoque design - the top shell does not come off; the body is one bonded structure around the chassis, with the wheel openings and driver door as the only access to the interior.

The car has already shipped, and some team members are on the way as well.

17: NWU Solar Car

The team from North West University in South Africa was a new team at the South African Solar Challenge in 2012, and finished 4th at SASC in 2014 with an asymmetric catamaran. This will be the first time they have attended WSC. Their car, Sirius X25, appears to be a slightly updated version of the car they raced in South Africa in 2014.

There's no news on social media about shipping the car.

18: EcoPhoton Solar Team

EcoPhoton is a team from the MARA University of Technology in Malaysia. This will be their first solar car race, with their first car, Stingray. It has what I can only assume is a chrome vinyl wrap, very blingy. Photos of the interior look respectable, especially for a first car. I can't find any pictures of it with solar cells installed, but the team posted pictures of packing the car for shipping a few days ago.

21: Solar Team Twente

Twente hails from the Netherlands, and has been racing at WSC since 2005. After experimenting unsuccessfully with some odd tilting-array cars in 2007 and 2009, Twente upped their game, finishing 5th in 2011 and 3rd in 2013 - both times with surprisingly thick cars that challenged "conventional" solar car aerodynamics, and looked great from every angle. Their previous car, The Red Engine, was one of my favorite cars at WSC 2013.

This year, like everyone else, they've built an asymmetric catamaran. Red One is a little unique in that it has three fairings with two separate fairings for the wheels on the non-driver side, rather than a monolithic fairing on both sides. While three of the four asymmetric cars in 2013 had three fairings, Nuon's winning car only had two monolithic fairings. Most of the teams this year have chosen to follow the champ's lead (including the other three asymmetric teams from 2013). The short nose/long tail looks hot, but it's also the opposite of what Nuon are doing this year. It'll be very interesting to see which design philosophy pays off.

Twente shipped their car at the end of August and has sent a small advance team down to prep the car in Australia.

22: Siam Technology College

Siam Technology College from Thailand is a brand new team. They unveiled their car STC-1 in July. The car is quite crude, but that's usually to be expected from new teams.

They posted videos of the car driving to Instagram in early August, and that's the last we've heard or seen from the team - no word on shipping or other race preparations.

23: MegaLux GAMF

This team is from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Automation at Kecskemét College in Hungary. They unveiled their car MegaLux in mid-August - like everyone else, it's an asymmetric catamaran. This is their first solar car, and WSC will be their first race. It looks impressively well built for a rookie team - look at how clean the chassis is, the amount of carbon in the suspension, how carefully laid the fabric is on the lower aerobody... Dang. If they have the electrical reliability, solar array, and race strategy to match the mechanical quality, they could be a serious contender.

There's been very few updates on social media since the unveiling, so I don't know if they have shipped the car yet.

25: Goko High School Solar Car Team

Goko is a high school team from Japan. They have been racing at Suzuka for many years, attended WSC in the Adventure Class in 2009, and fielded a Cruiser Class car in 2013. I believe 2015 will be their first entry into the Challenger class.

Musoushin at Suzuka in 2015
(image source)
They have built an asymmetric catamaran named Musoushin, which they raced at Suzuka in mid-August. EDIT SEPT 23: It appears that there are two teams from the Goko Industrial High School. The asymmetric catamaran from Suzuka 2015 was Kaiton III, the successor the the Cruiser Class Kaiton II from 2013. The other Goko team is bringing their car Musoushin to the Challenger class this year.

No information about the car shipping yet.

26: Durham University Solar Car

Durham is a small team from the UK. They attended the 2008 North American Solar Challenge (tied for last), and the last mention I can find of them is WSC 2011 - in which they only completed 550km or so.

This year, they've built an asymmetric catamaran, which they unveiled sans-array in early August. There's been no news from the team since then, which is not a good sign.

UPDATE: Someone helpfully pointed out this post from the blog of a shipping company(???), indicating that Durham's car shipped at the end of last week. It's a little sad when the shipper's blog keeps us more up to date than the solar car team :(

27: RVCE Solar Car Team

RVCE Solar Car is a team from the RV College of Engineering in Bangalore, India. Back in February, the team posted a short video to their Youtube, showing off the design of the car - a classic driver on the center near the back seating layout (but why? CG drives the driver aft in a three-wheeler, but not a four-wheeler). They've been writing a lot of "sponsor thank-you" posts on Facebook, but haven't shown any photos of the car. News articles they have linked to on Facebook still show a bare steel frame as of August.

I don't think we will see this team in Australia.

30: Team Arrow

Team Arrow is a team from Australia. WSC 2013 was their first race, and they finished in 7th place - the top finishing Australian team! They also brought their car Arrow to the 2015 Abu Dhabi race, finishing in 5th.

For 2015, they have brought on Cleanergy as a title sponsor for the team. They will be bringing back their 2013 car, renamed Arrow 1 GT, with a spiffy new color scheme. It will be interested to see how they perform - They were running pretty tightly in the middle of five-car group of thin-array-five-fairing cars in 2013, but the teams from that group that are returning this year (U of Toronto, Punch) have moved onto asymmetric cars.

32: Principia Solar Car

Principia has been part of the global solar car community since the mid 90s. They've attended WSC three times, finishing 6th in 2003, 7th in 2009, and 28th in 2011.

Their car Ra9 bears some resemblance to both Stanford's and Twente's cars at WSC 2013. Ra9 first raced at the 2014 American Solar Challenge, where it was unfortunately crippled when it was drenched by the fire suppression system in a garage overnight. The team still managed to pull off a 5th-place finish. Ra9 also raced at the inaugural 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, finishing 6th.

Ra9 has already been shipped to Australia and I expect the team will be arriving soon.

36: Anadolu Solar Team

Anadolu Solar Team is a Turkish team that has been building solar cars in 2007. Of note, they participated in the 2011 WSC (finishing about half the distance) and attended the 2014 South African Solar Challenge, finishing in 2nd place (ahead of UKZN).

The car they are bring to WSC this year, Sunatolia 2, appears to be an updated version of their 2014 SASC car.

I believe they shipped the car out at the start of August.

46: JU Solar Team

Magic being tested in August 2015
Ah, JU Solar, the famous "Natural Magic Energy" car from WSC 2013. This team from Jönköping University in Sweden was a brand new team in 2013, and was sponsored by an energy drink company. They brought so much, they were using pallets of it as a work stand for the car. JU were one of four teams to try an asymmetric catamaran in 2013 as a way to make a more aerodynamic 4-wheeled car (Nuon, Tokai, and Michigan were the others), and JU's car was by far the most terrifying from an engineering standpoint. Their race ended when the car was blown off the road.

This year, they're entering a much more reasonable looking asymmetric catamaran, which WSC says is named Magic.

It appears that they are in the process of shipping the car now.

47: Nagoya Institute of Technology Solar Car Team

This team from Japan has been racing at Suzuka for many years, but 2015 will be their first trip to WSC. It's a little difficult to tell, but it looks like their car Horizon Z ran at Suzuka in 2014 with a gallium array, and then again at Suzuka in 2015 with a silicon array.

The car appears to have shipped at the end of August.

51: KIT Solar Car Project

This team is from the Kanazawa Institute of Technology in Japan. They previously competed in WSC in 2013, finishing 12th with 2562km completed. Their new car, Golden Eagle 5.1, looks complete and you can see their WSC 2015 compliant array standing arrangement.

No word on if they have shipped the car yet.

77: Blue Sky Solar Racing

Blue Sky Solar Racing is from the University of Toronto in Canada. They have been racing since 1997. Their previous car, B-7, was one of the better performing cars at WSC 2013, finishing in 8th place.

This year, they've build an asymmetric catamaran named Horizon. It looks promising, but the fit & finish around the edges of the removable array leaves something to be desired.

No word on if they've shipped yet.

80: Beijing Institute of Technology

The team from the Beijing Institute of Technology raced for the first time at WSC 2013, finishing 19th with under half of the distance complete. They don't appear to have a website or any social media - although maybe I just can't find it because I don't speak Chinese. It's unclear if their car Sun Shuttle is the same car that they raced in 2013, or if it just has the same name.

82: Kookmin University Solar Car Team

This team from South Korea was a brand new team at WSC 2013. Unfortunately, they had some trouble and only managed to finish 2013km of the race, finishing 15th.

This year, they are bring a new car Baek-Ho, an asymmetric catamaran. The exterior photos look good, and there's a picture or two of it driving around on public roads. No word on if it has shipped yet.

Cruiser Class

11: Hochschule Bochum SolarCar Projekt

SunRiser in 2015
Bochum has been building "practical" looking solar cars since before the Cruiser class existed. BOCruiser was still a single-seat car at WSC 2009, but was definitely the shape of things to come. It was followed by SolarWorld GT at WSC 2011 - a practical, two-seat car with conventional doors! Many people credit this car as the impetus for WSC to form the Cruiser class. Of course, it didn't do so well against the sleek little Challenger class cars, finishing in 26th with less than half the distance completed. The team took SolarWorld GT on an around-the-world tour in 2012.

SolarWorld GT in 2011
Bochum entered the SunCruiser, a 3-seater, into the first running of the Cruiser Class at WSC 2013, where they managed a 2nd place finish.

For WSC 2015, they've built a car called SunRiser. It's a much more sleek looking two-seater (appropriate, given the 2015 Cruiser regs higher emphasis on speed and efficiency, when compared to 2013). They're still sticking with the 3m^2 gallium array that they've done on their previous two cars, which is fairly unique. The array will put out less energy, but it gives them a lot more flexibility with the shape of the car. We'll see how they fair now that the class that they inspired is growing larger.

BOCruiser in 2009
SunCruiser in 2013

24: Istanbul Technical University Solar Car Team

This team is from the Istanbul Technical University in Turkey, and has been racing solar cars since 2004. They've competed in the Challenger class at WSC every year since 2009, although they have never finished the race - completing 1437km, 2765km, and 1613km in '09, '11, and '13, respectively.

This year, they are entering a 4-seat Cruiser class car named Aruna.

No word on if the car has shipped.

28: SunSpec

The SunSpec team is from Singapore Polytechnic, and have been doing solar cars for a few years now. The entered the Challenger class at WSC 2013, finishing 16th with just a little over half the distance completed.

The are entering their 4th car, SunSPEC4, into the Cruiser class at WSC 2015. It appears to be a two-seat car.

The car was unveiled at the start of August, and the team posted some footage of it driving around a running track near the end of August. There haven't been any updates since then.

EDIT: Apparently I missed that there's been a fire at SunSpec's lab, so these folks may be out of luck :(

31: ITS Solar Car Racing Team

ITS Solar Car Racing team is from the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Indonesia. Their team history page claims they built a solar car in 1985 and drove it 800km from Jakarta to Surabaya in Indonesia, which if true, almost predates Hans Tholstrup's Quiet Achiever and *does* predate the World Solar Challenge itself.

The first time they ever competed in a solar car competition was with Sapu Angin Surya, their 4th car, at WSC 2013 - in which they finished 21st, with only 748km complete.

This year, they've built a Cruiser Class car called Widya Wahana V. I *think* it's a 2-seat car? It has 4 doors, but the rear ones are super tiny, so maybe they're just cargo access? The roofline and the lift on the underbody tunnel also implies only two seats. I'm tickled by the fake chrome grill that's vinyl wrapped on, complete with a Cadillac emblem. It looks fairly aerodynamic from the front, but those big, blunt trailing edges aren't going to do them any favors.

No news on if they have shipped the car or not, but as of the end of August, they were doing test drives.

33: IVE Solar Car

The team from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education has been building solar cars since the mid 2000s. They competed in the Adventure Class at WSC 2013, completing 2105km.

They have built a 2-seat Cruiser car for WSC 2015, called Sophie V. They unveiled the car in early July, and have been pretty quiet on social media since then - although they recently posted some photos from test drives.

35: University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project

The University of Minnesota has been building and racing solar cars since 1993, although they've mostly stuck to the USA - finishing 2nd place in Sunrayce and the American Solar Challenge five times (1995, 2003, 2005, 2010, and 2014). They've only been to WSC twice - placing 4th in the Cutout class in 1999 (23rd overall out of 40), and 4th in the Cruiser class in 2013.

Daedalus in 2013
Their 2013 car, Daedalus, was a very aerodynamic looking 2-seater - but it was unfortunately crippled by some issues with the team's custom motors, and struggled to finish in 4th place in the Cruiser class.

This year, the team has built another two seat car for the Cruiser class, which they have named Eos.
Eos in 2015
(image source)

Considering that the Cruiser regs changed to emphasize speed and efficiency more than practicality, I'm surprised to see a much less aerodynamic-appearing design. It's possible that they know something that I don't, I guess.

The team has already shipped the car to Australia, and I expect that the team will follow soon.

38: Persian Gazelle Solar Car

Circa-2013 rendering of PGIII
(image source)
Persian Gazelle is a team from the University of Tehran in Iran. They were formed in 2005, and their first car raced in Taiwan in the fall of 2006. They took their second car to WSC in 2011, finishing 31st with 1037km completed.

Their website claims that they have been working on a two-seat car named Persian Gazelle III since mid 2012. However, the only photos I've seen are renderings from March of 2013, and their last update to social media was a Facebook post from January, showing off an empty room that they claim is their new lab space.

Unfortunately, I do not expect to see this team at WSC 2015. Perhaps they are simply extremely secretive, but I am not very hopeful.

40: Solar Team Eindhoven

Eindohoven, from the Netherlands, was a brand new team at the 2013 WSC. They won the first Cruiser class with Stella, a 4-seat car.

2015 Stella Lux on the left
2013 Stella on the right
This year, they're bringing Stella Lux, a very evolutionary car. It's still a 4-seat "solar bus", just like the original Stella, and shares a lot of other design features. The major change is the tunnel down the middle of the car, which is where the battery fit in Stella. I wonder where the batteries go now? I'm also suspicious of the aspect ratio of the tunnel - sure, it technically reduces frontal area, but I think it's so long and narrow that it'll basically serve as an entropy generator. Of course, aerodynamics isn't everything - I thought the 2013 Cruiser victory would go to UNSW or Minnesota, but both teams had major issues along the race.

The rule changes in the Cruiser class certainly do not favor a car like this, which I will discuss more in a future post.

We'll see if the champs can hold onto the title again this year. 

43: Ardingly Solar Car

This team is from Ardingly College, a boarding school in the UK. The car appears fairly typical for a first-time high school team. I'm sort of confused by their use of a picture of one of Bochum's old cars in their logo? They are fairly active on Twitter, and it looks like the car is still a major work-in-progress. I can't imagine that it'll get to Australia in time for WSC if they haven't started packing it up yet.

Unfortunately, I do not expect to see this team at WSC 2015.

45: KGHM Lodz Solar Team

This is a brand new team from the Lodz University of Technology in Poland. They've build a solid looking 2-seat Cruiser car, Eagle One, which they unveiled back in July.

I don't have any news on if they have shipped the car yet.

75: UNSW Sunswift

The team from the University of New South Wales in Australia are old pros at solar car racing. They finished 4th in the 2009 WSC, and 6th in 2011. Sunswift's eVe was one of the best looking Cruiser cars in 2013, and managed a 3rd place finish despite some major problems along the way.

In the off season after the last WSC, they set some sort of complicated fastest-electric-car-over-a-fixed-distance-on-a-single-charge world record.

For WSC 2015, they're bringing back eVe back for another chance at the Cruiser trophy. The car has some new headlights and sweet Koenigsegg doors. Seems a little silly to me, but anything's better than their non-functional passenger door for 2013. Hopefully all of the other bugs have been ironed out in the past two years!

The slight changes to the scoring regs for 2015 should also favor their slick 2-seater a little bit.

88: Kogakuin University Solar Vehicle Project

The Kogakuin team is from Japan, and has been racing solar cars since 2009 - mostly at Suzuka. WSC 2013 was their first time to Australia; they managed a 14th place finish in the Challenger class with 2450km completed. This was respectable, considering that the car was designed specifically for racing on a Formula 1 track, rather than cross country endurance. For 2015, they've shifted over the the Cruiser class, and the car that they unveiled at the end of July is HOT.

(image source)
Owl is a two-seater with a MASSIVE tunnel between the two drivers. The "double bubble" Zagato roof is a classic race car shape, although in this case I think it looks cool more than it actually helps the car - I suspect it negatively impacts the array more than it helps the aerodynamics. They're also going to be running the mysterious new Bridgestone Ecopia tire this year. I'm really curious how they stack up against the Michelin and Schwalbe tires.

(image source)
I think this is by far the most aerodynamic Cruiser car entered into 2015, and the regs this year emphasize speed and efficiency more than in 2013. If the car is reliable and the team performs well, this may be the car to beat.

It looks like the team shipped out the car in mid-August.

Adventure Class

6: PI Solar Car

This team is from the Petroleum Institute in the United Arab Emirates. They are a brand new team, formed for the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, which was held early this year. Their car is basically a clone of the WSC-winning 2011 Tokai Challenger, and they were heavily supported by the Tokai team at ADSC. They finished 2nd, very close behind University of Michigan in a hotly contested race for the win.

(image source)
They're in the Adventure class because they built a 3-wheeled car. I'm sort of mystified by that - sure, it's a faster car, so they had a better chance of winning ADSC - but it relegated them to the also-ran class at WSC.

Expect them to be extremely fast, but no one will care, since they aren't really competing with anyone. Keep an eye on this team - if PI's car wasn't just a stunt for the World Future Energy Summit (like the entire ADSC sort of appeared to be), and they're actually serious about building a real solar car team, they could be a real contender in 2017. They certainly have the petrodollars.

Their last social media updates showed them packing up the workshop in mid August.

20: Houston Solar Race Team

(image source)
This high school team from the Houston School District in Mississippi has been doing solar car since 2006 or so. They've been to WSC before, competing in the adventure class in 2007. Unfortunately, they only completed 143km and finished in 18th - dead last.

Their car looks pretty good for a high school team, and we wish them the best of luck at WSC this year! 

34: Liberty Christian Solar Car Team

This team is from a private Christian high school in Argyle, Texas in the USA. They shipped their car out in mid July.

42: TAFE SA Solar Spirit

(image source)
The team from Technical and Further Education South Australia have been running solar cars at WSC off and on since 2005. They were a participant in the first Cruiser class at WSC 2013, finishing in 8th with a little under half of the distance completed. They're running the same car again at WSC 2015.

Best of luck to TAFE and Solar Spirit!


  1. An excellent status update! Last I heard, the Singapore team (28) were evaluating their position following the fire, which seems to have damaged the car.

    1. I missed that story, thanks for pointing it out, Tony! I've updated the post to reflect that.

  2. Eindhoven deliberately chose to continue development of the concept of "passenger car". Winning is not a primary goal (but still cool if achievable, and they will certainly try to win). Continuity in their design was too important in light of R&D they do outside the racing context

    1. Huh. Well, I can quote their web page as well - from the front page of Eindhoven's website, (right before the kind of weird messianic stuff about "convincing the world of their vision"): "Winning the World Solar Challenge is one of the main goals of Solar Team Eindhoven"

      Do you have any information about them *really* doing R&D outside of the context of racing? I'd be really interested if you do, but that blurb on the website just looks like standard solar car fluff to me. Solar car teams have talked about how what they're doing will "lead to the car of the future" basically since the dawn of solar cars, but that's never the primary focus for the race team - the main focus is winning the race, and there's not time for anything else.

      Sure, a bunch of the rookie teams are just at WSC for the experience, but all of the higher-caliber teams are in it to win it. I can't imagine why Eindhoven would spend as much money as they do on the car and the race if winning wasn't the goal at the forefront of their minds.

    2. Indeed I should have done more in terms of sources. A problem is though that their presentation video is in Dutch and most of the info is in there.
      However, their Facebook page has references to their road registration and their Solar Navigator.

      Their Reddit AMA/ does not go deeply into the kind of stuff we are looking into, though may still be an interesting read.

    3. Stella Lux's battery is located just above the tunnel. I don't recall where I got that bit of information though. Maybe from one of the videos on their facebook page.

  3. Thanks for the elaborate status update.

  4. Hi, I found this: http://tradefreight.co.uk/shipping-to-australia-from-uk-dusc-solar-car/

    So apparently, the Durham car was shipped to Australia on Sep 4.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I've updated the post. I guess they're just neglecting to post any updates.