Thursday, October 29, 2015

WSC 2015 Summary and Retrospective

Now that I've had some time to rest up back home, it's time for a WSC 2015 wrap-up post. Buckle up, this is a long one...

Final results for the Challenger, Cruiser, and Adventure classes have been posted. See also this fantastic data visualization from the previous lead of the Blue Sky team. ScientificGems has also made several wrap-up posts that I'd encourage you to go read.

If you missed it, a recording of the awards ceremony is still available here.

Challenger Class

An amazing 20 teams finished in the Challenger class this year, double the number that has finished the challenge for the last decade or so. The field was much higher quality than I've seen in years, and it makes me very hopeful about the future of the sport!

Using Nuon's finishing time in 2013 as a baseline and normalizing all 2015 finishing times to it (attempting to control for regs changes and weather differences), it's clear that almost every team this year improved relative to Nuon. The big winners in the improvement category were the teams that did more poorly in 2013 - Michigan was 26% better than in 2013, and Punch was 15% better. Twente improved 12%, Arrow, Blue Sky, and Stanford all improved 9%, and Tokai improved 7% relative to Nuon.

It's harder to compute a % improvement for teams that didn't finish the race last time. That said, EAFIT and WSU both failed to complete the event in 2013, and finished in the top 10 this year! I'd probably nominate the two of them as the "most improved" teams of WSC 2015. It's also worth mentioning JU, who went from finishing less than half of the route two years ago as a rookie, to finishing the entire course in 15th this time around. KIT and Kookmin were the other two teams that didn't finish the course in 2013 but completed the challenge this year, so congrats to those teams as well.

Overall, it was a really tight race up in the top 5 - Nuon, Twente, Tokai, Michigan, and Punch stuck very closely together for the first three days or so. But there was no way they were all equally matched; we speculated a lot in our van about which teams were outrunning their battery and which teams were biding their time and pacing the main group. Sure enough, first Punch started dropping back, then Tokai, then Michigan... but it looks like Nuon and Twente really were that closely matched, finishing 8 minutes and 20 seconds apart on the official timing. Amazing!

Punch finished in 5th place. I'd left them out of my top picks for a reason - sure, they build very pretty cars, but cars don't win races - teams win races. The Umicore/Punch team never quite seems to have the level of design robustness and operational perfection necessary to win, and that still held true this year. They still ended up in the top five because Stanford, although superior operationally (they effectively ran a perfect race), simply did not have a car with enough raw performance.

Punch stopped repeatedly on the first day - each time due to issues stemming from one problem. First either the rear fairing came loose or the license plate dropped into the rear fairing (I heard both from different Punch members, and don't know which is true) so they stopped to fix that. Then they were forced to stop a second time because the right rear tire had been damaged by whatever caused them to stop the first time, and then a third stop to fix an issue with the motor. Afterward, they turned the afterburners on to catch up to the top teams - we clocked them at +110kph when we overtook them on the 2nd day before Tennant Creek. Not a smart strategy... They had several days to reel in the top teams; there was no need to catch them ASAP. Then their media car earned a 1 hour penalty for the team (which I'll talk about later), and finally they broke their rear suspension by turning too quickly into the Coober Pedy control stop. Beefier rod ends with a safety factor larger than 1.001 don't add all that many grams... You can't win if you keep making operational and design mistakes like this. Once is chance, 5+ incidents is a pattern.

Interesting leading edge details. Also note the channel in the center of the car.

That said, given how well their car performed in spite of all of the issues, I think they may have had the best car at the race this year. Although I wasn't super impressed by the car in photos before the race, I liked it a lot more once I got up close. There was a lot of secret sauce in the underbody aero. A massive amount of effort went into making Punch One as slippery and efficient as possible, and I was shocked at how close Punch ended up to the top four (and how big the gap back to Stanford was) even after all of their issues, penalties, and questionable strategy.

Michigan finished in 4th this year. They lead the race through the first day (it probably helped that they were monsters on the track and qualified well ahead of the rest of the top teams), but slipped back slowly and steadily over the course of the race. In particular, they fell back significantly in the afternoon of the third day after Alice Springs; I heard they had a persistent fender rub issue in the afternoon that they weren't able to properly diagnose until that evening, which cost them a lot of energy and time. But the slip back to 4th was purely a strategy failure. Michigan had been widening the gap back to Tokai over the 4th day, ending 30-40km ahead. Further north on the highway, Tokai was under full sun in the evening charge and following morning charge, while Michigan was fully overcast both days. Tokai's extra energy allowed them to drive much faster on the 5th day, sneaking ahead of Michigan and finishing 4 minutes and 2 seconds earlier. WHOOPS. So much for Michigan's much vaunted weather modeling. Weather modeling doesn't matter if you don't have it linked into your strategy...

Michigan driving towards Tennant Creek on the morning of October 19th.

I'm not convinced Michigan really got anything at all out of their concentrators. They weren't carefully pointing them (unlike Nuon in 2013, who appeared to obsess over their Semprius modules), and I'm pretty sure they need to be carefully aimed for the lenses to focus on the cells. The modules were also usually half-shaded by the shell (gotta keep them inside the bounding box), and were often directly under the water sheeting off the array. At least one of the three was full of condensation by the end of the race. They were probably just dead weight, sadly.

Michigan in Alice Springs: Makeshift rain gutters, and strings for the water to
run down without splashing the concentrators. These were invented sometime
after Tennant Creek.

Tokai placed a respectable 3rd place; they closed the time gap to Nuon significantly relative to 2013. I honestly didn't hear too much about about them, other than several incidents of unsafe overtaking of the Michigan team. I have the most horrifying photo (taken from the Punch lead car, which I do not have permission to publish) of the Tokai Challenger failing at overtaking and about to get smeared off the Stuart Highway by an oncoming Jeep Cherokee - except for the grace of the Michigan chase driver, who had both the presence of mind and the bravery to dive onto the shoulder at +90kph to give Tokai somewhere to go. Yeeesh. They got a few slap-on-the-wrist penalties for stuff like this, but given how close Michigan ended up behind them, I'll bet Michigan wishes Tokai had gotten one more penalty...

(EDIT 30 October: The photo I describe above was published by Michigan in a blog post)

Tokai charging in the evening of October 19th, before Alice Springs.

The mirrors were neat, but I'm not sure how much they helped (if at all). Looked cool, though...

Twente finished in 2nd, and they put on a spectacular show. The car was beautiful, and I loved their two-stage tilt-the-chassis-and-then-the-car array normalizing strategy. The chassis effectively gets narrower so the array can overhang the edge slightly, AND the pivot point moves lower, allowing the array to tilt higher! Brilliant! The team ran a near flawless race, and kept the race nail-bitingly-close until the very end. Unfortunately, the car and team weren't quiiiiite good enough for the overall win.

Twente charging in the morning of October 20th, before Alice Springs

There was some drama near the end of the race, with some Twente members accusing Nuon of certain things over social media. They got a lot of people up in arms on the internet spreading rumors and half-truths, but ultimately, WSC did not penalize Nuon. Honestly, I don't really see the point of whining publicly like that - file an official complaint or simply keep your griping to yourself if you don't think it merits an official inquiry. And filing official complaints while publicly complaining does not endear to you to the WSC officials...

Nuon had a bunch of complaints about Twente's conduct as well, but were wise enough to express them in private, rather than blasting them to the internet at large in 140 characters at a time. I won't speak of them here, but let's just say Nuon believed they had valid complaints that would be backed up by observer's notes, and were fully prepared to start a protest war if Twente wanted one. But ultimately, I think it was only a few Twente members who were complaining; the two teams were happily partying together the night after the finish (while folks on the internet were still gnashing their teeth about who did what and when).

Nuon was the 1st place finisher in the Challenger class this year. They ran a perfect race in a slick, clean car completely devoid of any secret weapons. They simply had a superbly aerodynamic and lightweight (150kg) car with a powerful solar array, and the race strategy and team to match it. Bravo to Nuna8 and the Nuon team for taking home their 6th overall win at WSC.

Nuon charging hard into Alice Springs on the morning of October 20th

A few other noteworthy Challenger cars and contests:

Stanford had a very clean car, and by all accounts ran a nearly perfect race. If you look at the graph on ScientificGems, you'll note the slope of their line is nearly flat, with no sharp kinks - indicating a very constant average speed over the entire race; one of the signs of very good strategy and a very reliable car. They eliminated more than half the time between themselves and Nuon relative to 2013 - but almost all of the other teams had improved more than Stanford did since 2013, so they slipped from 4th in 2013 to 6th place this year.

The Hungarian team's car MegaLux was a carbon fiber masterpiece, and the team did extremely well for a first time team, placing 7th. I'm very excited to see what they come up with for 2017.

There was a fairly tight race for 8th place between Team Arrow, EAFIT, and Western Sydney. Ultimately Arrow prevailed, while EAFIT and WSU finished in 9th and 10th, respectively. Like I said above, the latter two teams are probably the most improved from two years ago, so congrats for rounding out the top 10!

The race for 11th between NWU, Blue Sky, and UKZN ended in that order, with only 31 minutes spanning 11th to 13th - and NWU was only about a half hour behind WSU as well! The race for 14th was even closer - Goko prevailed over JU and Nagoya, but Nagoya in 16th was only 20 minutes behind Goko.

Principia, KIT, Anadolu, and Kookmin all managed to get through the end of timing on the last day, rounding out our finishers to a full 20 teams. Principia should be particularly proud, given the nasty electrical issues they had on the first day of the race.

There's not too much of note among the few teams that trailered - I haven't heard too much about any of them; all of them were pretty silent of social media and team blogs after the end of scrutineering. The only major news from these teams was the Malaysian's horrifying battery fire outside of Darwin. Major kudos to all of the teams in Alice Springs who got them repaired and back on the road, by the way. They managed to drive another some distance after the battery fire, including across the finish line!

I'm not sure what the difference is between RVCE's "Did Not Start", Siam Tech's "Withdrawn", and Durham's "Trailered for all 3022km but curiously faster elapsed time than the 20th place finisher". Very puzzling.

Cruiser Class

Eindhoven took the Cruiser Class win this year. I was really blown away by this car - it drove FASTER than their previous car (Average of 76.7 kph in 2015 vs 75.1 kph in 2013) on less than 65% of the total energy, (due to two of the grid charge locations being eliminated this year). Stella's performance in 2013 implied a CdA around 0.38 sqm, and the performance of Stella Lux this year implies a CdA of 0.23 sqm - spectacular for a car that looks like that, and over 30% better than what I'd estimated it would be. Clearly, I need to go back to school. The team also scored the highest in practicality (84.5%).

Eindhoven's driver waves to us on the morning of October 18th

I heard from a team member afterward that some of them were really freaked about about my post before the race, predicting a 4th place finish for them. Don't let bullshit on the internet get to you, folks! Haters gonna hate.

Kogakuin placed 2nd in the Cruiser class. Their sleek car was the fastest Cruiser car in the challenge, averaging 79.8 kph over the event. However, I think they could have gone even faster - they pulled into Alice Springs with 30-40% left in the battery pack. That energy that was effectively wasted when they plugged the car into the grid there, because WSC doesn't meter energy during grid charge and just assesses points as if the battery was charged from dead empty to full. Not great strategy on Kogakuin's part... I think they also arrived in Adelaide with a large amount left in the battery, although they were artificially restricted a bit over that leg: WSC limited them to 70kph for three hours on day 4 due to instability in crosswinds. That certainly didn't help them, considering they averaged 88kph from Barrow Creek into Alice Springs...

Passing Kogakuin after the Katherine control stop of October 18th

Ultimately, they did not go fast enough to make up for their low practicality score (51.75%) and they finished in 2nd place. They would have needed to complete the course 2.07 hours faster to edge out Eindhoven - an average of 4.6 kph faster than they actually drove.

Given how much energy they had left in the pack at Alice Springs, it's interesting to wonder if they could have won by doing a pure-solar run. They arrived in Alice Springs quite early, and it's unclear in the rules if they could have sat at the control stop all day, charging off the sun - or if they had to pack it in and either impound the battery or wall-charge after the 30 minute control stop ended. If they had done a pure solar run, Kogakuin could have been as much as 2.16 hours slower than they were (or 3.67 hours slower with two people in the car) and still ended up the victors.

Bochum's car was simply great. Interior, headlights, doors, styling, the works. Even though they finished 3rd overall, I want it in my driveway. How much $$$? Needs a new array, though...

Sunswift's eVe struggled to the finish, but they did finish - and ditto for Minnesota, who snuck in with a bare 3 minutes to go before the end of timing. Never give up, never surrender!

Cruiser class judging was interesting to watch. For starters, teams had to pack a bunch of luggage inside their car, and appeared to be timed on how quickly they could load the car up. Some teams passed with flying colors - the Eindhoven team actually wished there had been more to pack in. On the other hand, some teams had made no provisions for luggage - Minnesota, for example, had to pile up the luggage in the passenger seat, and I assume Kogakuin and Tehran scored poorly here as well.

Luggage, groceries, and small items
Details of the small items.
Very cramped passenger compartment in Kogakuin's car

Teams also had to complete a hill start, without rolling backwards and breaking an egg placed under the rear wheel. I think Minnesota was the only team I saw that failed this - partly because they had just barely finished the race only a few hours previously and had a completely drained battery, and partly because I think one of their two motors was non-operational. I suppose part of practicality is still being able to perform after a long roadtrip, but it felt a little like a "hit 'em while they're down" situation.

After the hill start was the parallel park. Some teams were quite good at this, but others had a lot of trouble. It seems like it was more of a problem with the drivers than the cars; most were able to complete it smoothly in the end, but some took several tries at it.

Finally, the teams had to give sales pitch to some Tesla engineers who were on-site. Both Eindhoven and Bochum came prepared with presentations, posterboards, and pamphlets. It looked fun, but it seemed like this part could be very biased towards teams that were fluent in English...

The interior of Eindhoven's Stella Lux
A Tesla engineer sits in the Iranian's car.

There was a fifth item on the judges sheets, but I didn't get a close enough look, and I didn't see an obvious fifth station. Coolness? Judge's choice? Unfortunately, I have no clues as to how the various aspect of Practicality judging were weighted.

As I described here in point #2, I think WSC made a critical error in the finishing order for the Cruiser cars that trailered - if that order is correct, there's a gaping loophole in the Cruiser scoring rules waiting to be exploited.

Adventure Class

A round of applause for all of the Adventure Class teams for participating this year - ESPECIALLY for the Houston team, who completed over 80% of the route on solar power. I'm really mystified by the official results, which place them in 3rd (last) place. As the team points out, reg 4.1.3 states that teams which trailer will be ranked in order by km driven on solar power - which is exactly how the Challenger cars are ordered. Ordering teams who trailered by elapsed time is very silly - what does that elapsed time mean when the car has been on a trailer, anyway? The point of reg 4.1.3 is so that trailer-racing isn't a valid strategy if you know you're going to have to trailer, and ignoring it sets a bad precedent on several levels.

I know that the Adventure Class isn't a "prestige" class, but the teams HAVE made a huge effort to travel around the world to WSC, so the least the officials could do would be to take them seriously and rank them properly. Giving TAFE SA an "achievement award" and the two USA high school "participation awards" at the awards ceremony rather than announcing finishing order seemed a little condescending...

(EDIT 30 October: The Houston team posted a clarifying statement, in which WSC explained to them that to be considered the "winning" team, a team must complete all of the distance on solar power)

Team Perception of WSC

Just kidding. Kinda.

It's a well known fact that WSC scrutineering is capricious and arbitrary. Like all well known facts, this isn't exactly true. WSC seemed to treat most teams equally at scrutineering; they were mostly consistent about what was inspected... and about what wasn't. There were several rules that appeared to be flat-out ignored. Nuon's "roll hoop", for example, was a joke. The driver's head will be the first thing to hit the ground if Nuna8 rolls over, full stop. No ifs, ands, or buts - the top of the driver's helmet was clearly above the line the hoop makes with the structural front of the car. WSC's roll structure rules are already a joke and all the top teams know that those rules can basically be ignored (and they'll be more competitive if they do).

The battery inspection is also kind of a joke. They were very rigorous about putting anti-tamper markers inside the battery boxes, but I don't think they ever turned on the packs to check out the functionality of the BMS systems - one expects they could have caught the problem with Malaysia's pack if the battery had truly been inspected, and WSC could have avoided a very dangerous and very public battery fire.

There were a few inconsistencies, however. For example, I while I saw them measure the height of everyone's array stand setup, I only saw them sporadically measure the width, which is just as important - it's the combination of width and height restrictions that made the array normalization such a difficult problem. Why measure some teams, but not all? There were many teams that pretty clearly violated the maximum width that I did not see being inspected.

Not to single anyone out, but here's a photo of EAFIT's array stand setup. Their car had 13 Sunpower cells across the width of the car, which are each 125mm wide. Assuming zero gaps between cells and no space on either side of the car, that's 1.625m of width - leaving only 175mm left available in the 1.8m wide bounding box. I'm pretty sure the edge of the array is waaaay more than 175mm out from the edge of the chassis in this photo, but the width of the car while normalizing was not measured.

Michigan was one of the few teams that was measured for width while normalizing and were given a bit of a hard time at scrutineering, but I saw them repeatedly violate the width with their concentrators while on the race and no one seemed to care, so I guess it all worked out equally for everyone in the end.

Penalties also did not inspire confidence among the teams. They're not even announced publicly - folks have to determine if teams have been penalized via rumors and hearsay. I can understand that the reason for the penalty might be kept private between the officials and the team in question (IIRC ASC does not announce the reason either), but the existence of the penalty should not have to be the subject of rumor. This caused a lot of angst on the race for some teams, and especially for the folks trying to follow along back home.

WSC penalties are a little arbitrary in nature. The Challenger class isn't an elapsed time race; the first team across the line wins. So penalties are assessed by holding a team at a control stop for some time (and there is no good method for rescinding penalties that have already been served). A 10 minute penalty (for example) doesn't really cost a team 10 minutes of race time - they're sitting charging for 10 extra minutes, which enables them to drive (marginally) faster afterwards, making up a little bit of time. The severity of the penalty is greatly impacted by the weather at the charging location as well - which didn't work in Punch's favor. It was sunny in Alice Springs when they managed to somehow get out of serving their 1 hour penalty, but partly cloudy in Kulgera when they were forced to take it.

On that topic, many teams were very confused about Punch's gigantic penalty, compared to Tokai's slap-on-the-wrist penalty for dangerous overtaking maneuvers (which were caught on camera! It's not like there's a lack of evidence). I've heard that at least one of Punch's vehicles was caught massively speeding on the service roads into Hidden Valley (in front of Chris Selwood and Safety Pete!), and the team was threatened with expulsion from the event and were very clearly put "on notice" that further shenanigans from them would not be tolerated. But the whole team must not have gotten the message, because a media car of theirs apparently nearly ran a member of the public off the road during the race... It definitely explains the harsh penalty for Punch, but that doesn't explain how Tokai got off so lightly.

All that said, it is what it is, and WSC has successfully been running their race in this fashion for years. But it'll be interesting to see how the format evolves in this era of ever increasing scrutiny from those of us in the peanut gallery on the internet.


Despite my fears about the asymmetric car's stability, this year was surprisingly incident free. Prior to the race, both Stanford and Michigan each had an unexpected offroad adventure while testing in SA, but both teams came away relatively unscathed - nothing like Nuna4's testing accident in 2007. As far as I know, there weren't any stability-induced road departures during the race itself. EAFIT did get caught in a willy-willy, and I'm told they did a full 540 degree spin and ended up waaay off the road. Amazingly, there was minimal damage to the car, and they were able to keep on driving. There's dashcam footage; I've seen still captures from it. Release the video, please!

The Malaysians had their first day battery fire, and Nagoya's array separated and went airborne on the first day as well. WSU and Punch both had relatively minor suspension failures that were quickly repaired and didn't slow them down too much.

That's all I've heard! A very clean race overall.


I had some grand plans about how I wanted to do race coverage, which fell apart basically as soon as I got into the outback - I had never been to WSC before and some of my plans were very naive, in retrospect. The lack of cell connectivity makes it very difficult to make updates, or even figure out what's going on during the race - I think the folks back home had a better idea of where most of the cars than I did. So here are some thoughts:

While on the road, I ended up completely out of the loop with what was going on beyond my immediate line of sight. There was too much locally to focus on, and I didn't have data coverage most of the time anyway. Any successful WSC coverage effort really needs at least one or two people "back home" for the duration of the challenge (or hanging out somewhere with internet, like Adelaide) to collect stories, links, and archive WSC timing data as it comes in for future number crunching (I really, really, really wish WSC would publish times at every control stop).

It would be great to have a dedicated photographer and a dedicated blogger working together, with a dedicated driver or two to ferry them along the route. A single combination blogger/photographer + one driver was simply not enough people; spending all day alternating between taking photos and driving, and then all night uploading them and writing about them by myself was exhausting.

Finally, multiple road crews might be good idea for serious coverage - there's simply too much going on for any one car to cover. We chose to follow the top teams this year and beat them to the finish line. While it was fun due to how close the race was, we basically didn't see any cars at all on the 4th day of the race - we saw Arrow and WSU once each over 14 hours while catching up from our overnight stop in Alice Springs. There's no way for a single group of people to catch all the action. I was planning to head back north after the top teams finished to catch some of the slower teams on the way in, but we were all completely exhausted once we got to Adelaide, so that plan was quickly abandoned. If I were to do it again in a single car, I'd probably hang near the back to begin with, and work up to the middle of the pack by the end - only 05:20:00 separated 8th from 16th, so there was plenty of action mid-pack.

In the end, WSC was an amazing experience, and I really hope to see all of you again in 2017!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Final Results for WSC 2015 Posted

See the Challenger, Cruiser, and Adventure class results. I'll be posting more about the results later (maybe later tonight even).

For now, a few quick notes:

1) 11 out of 20 finishing cars in the Challenger class have a time ending in zero seconds, which is statistically so astronomically unlikely that I'm not even going to bother computing the chances... Why bother reporting time down to the second if it's clearly only recorded to the minute-ish?

2) Ardingly appears to have driven zero km on solar power... But because of this, they never took the grid charge in Alice Springs, and the reduction in "energy usage" (normalized relative to the top finishing car) gives them so many points that they ended up in 6th overall in the Cruiser class. I think WSC made a critical error here - similar to how teams get a zero on the "time" portion if they don't finish the race, I think non-finishing teams should have also gotten a zero on "energy" as well. Otherwise, it's ripe for a "The Producers" style strategy - aim to win by losing. Someone could have built a car with 0.1kWh of batteries, failed to finish the race, but their "Energy Usage" relative to the best finishing car would have netted them over 4400 points out of a possible 15 in the category! WUT.

3) Why doesn't WSC report miles driven on solar in the Cruiser results? I know it doesn't matter for the scoring, but it would be neat to know (for example) if Lodz did 2113km with a single person, or 1056km with two people in the car, or somewhere in between.

Friday, October 23, 2015

WSC 2015: Race Day 4, 5, and 6.

 Last time we wrote an update, we'd just finished the third day of the WSC 2015, and were camped out in the Alice Springs caravan park with all of the Cruiser Class teams. The Malaysians were camped there as well, trying to get their car repaired after their battery fire. A bunch of UNSW and Minnesota members were up late helping repair the car, along with a few WSC officials, the odd member or two from Bochum, Eindhoven, Kogakuin, and some random solar car team alums spectating along the race.

We had a looong drive ahead of us the next day to catch up with the top teams - our target was the outback just north of Port Augusta - but we still stayed up late into the night pitching in to patch their car up.

A Sunswift alum contemplating the fire damage to EcoPhoton's car.
Fire damage, partially repaired - and soon to be fully patched over.
Eindhoven's car under covers for the night.
Team members and officials making a plan of action for rebuilding Malaysia's
electrical system.
On the morning of the 21st, we woke up before dawn and headed out chasing the top teams. Since we were starting from Alice Springs, and the winners were projected to cross the line on the morning of the 23rd, that meant we had to get near Port Augusta by the end of the day. 1200km in one day is a lot of driving to do...

We did a quick swing by the Malaysian camp in the morning, and the team was
wiring up power trackers and spinning the motor.
Passing BlueSky charging by the side of the road outside Alice Springs.

Passing WSU early in the morning, before Kulgera

Meeting up with Team Arrow in Coober Pedy
Passing Team Arrow after departing from our Coober Pedy fuel stop.
MegaLux charging in the evening in Glendambo

Camping in the outback on the night of the 21st, after driving +1200km in a single
day. We ended up 40km north of Port Augusta.
We made it! At the finish line on the morning of the 22nd, before the top finishers.
Nuon finishes first!

Twente across the line 2nd
Michigan in 4th (I don't have a great picture of Tokai, who finished 3rd)

Stanford finished 6th (No great picture of Punch, who finished 5th).
The team was greeted by an alum with a ginger beer and doughnuts.
Goko High School finishing on the 23rd - the top finishing high school team.

Ardingly at the finish line.
Stingray from the MARA University of Technology in Malaysia driving across the finish line under it's own power - a major achievement after their battery fire.
Cambridge crossing the line
Most of the cars have finished by now - the finishing order so far for the Challenger class appears to be:
  1. Nuon
  2. Twente
  3. Tokai
  4. Michigan
  5. Punch
  6. Stanford
  7. MegaLux
  8. Arrow
  10. WSU
  11. NWU
  12. Blue Sky
  13. UKZN
  14. Goko
  15. JU
  16. NIT
Principia, KIT, and maaaybe Anadolu will finish tomorrow (the finish line closes at noon). Even without those teams, this is by far the best field of car we've had at WSC in a long time - far more teams finishing than in previous years.

On the Cruiser side, Kogakuin and Eindhoven have finished, and Bochum is due in early tomorrow. Sunswift should finish as well, and maaaybe Minnesota will sneak in under the line. The Cruiser practicality judging is at 2pm tomorrow.

I'll post some comments on the race and performance of each car in the coming days, but for now, I'd like to wrap this up. I will say one thing though: Twente was very vocal on social media about a few supposed race conduct issues on Nuon's part, and it caused quite a stir around the finish line - and in the comments on blogs. However, I am not a fan of internet mobs based on single-sided hearsay. If Twente believes they have a real case against Nuon, they should be filing an official protest rather than whining publicly on social media. We'll see how appealing through official channels goes... Given how close the race was, I'd be shocked if Twente was able to run a 100% clean race and I'd be surprised if Nuon couldn't match protest-for-protest if Twente decides to force the issue.

Whelp. That's that for tonight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

WSC 2015: Race Photos From The First Three Days.

We're hanging out in Alice Springs at the moment, and plan to stick around through the night. Now that we have some real internet and some time as well, let's look back at some photos of the race.

Race Day 1: 18 October 2015

See the update we made about the first day of the challenge. In photos:

Checking out Team Arrow's car before departure.
Durham with their completed driver canopy.

A Nuon member told me that the price to get your photo on the car is only 10€.
They hope to have the whole car covered next year. Sounds like a deal to me!
3D printed trailing edge on Nuna8.
Coldplate on the underside of Nuon's left fairing for cooling the motor controller.
Tokai unwrapping their car
Vividly blue solar cells.

Stanford's Crew Chief, Jamie, is all smiles before the start line.
Good luck to all the teams! We rolled out before the official start time so that we
could get a good vantage point for photography, and wouldn't be snarled in all the
traffic on the way out.
Team Arrow was the first team past out location.
Looking good!
Eindhoven was the second team we saw. A bunch of teams waved at us, thanks!
Michigan was the third past us.
We saw Punch fourth.
Then a tight group of Principia and Solaris...
And Bochum, too!

Tokai and WSU
Hi Tokai!
Twente and MegaLux in heavy traffic - but less than two minutes behind the
Principia/Solaris/Bochum group.

Stanford appears in the distance

KIT, Goko, and Nuon.

BlueSky from the UofToronto.
Lodz and IVE...
... and MIT!


Cambridge comes over the hill - Evolution looks comically small against the traffic.

After Kookmin passed us, we started packing up - although we were passed by several more teams before we finally got on the road. Passing teams was a bunch of fun!

KIT viewed through the fires

At this point, I switched to the Olympus 9mm fish-eye "body cap" lens for
on-road overtaking shots. Best $90 piece of plastic I've ever bought.

We caught up with a bunch of teams at the Katherine Control Stop.

Arrow in Katherine

WSU in Katherine. 
Kogakuin unpacks supplies for partially normalizing their car.

EPM-EAFIT pulls in to Katherine
Kogakuin got out of Katherine right before us, so we got to pass them again.

We were fueling up at the Hi-Way Inn (~50km north of Dunmarra), and both
Kogakuin and EPM-EAFIT pulled in to do their end-of-day charging just as
we were about to depart. Very convenient for us!

Closeup of EPM-EAFIT's concentrator cells.
Assembling the concentrator modules.
Foil over the concentrators until they are aimed, to prevent miss-focused
concentrators from damaging themselves.

After checking out Kogakuin and EPM-EAFIT, we headed up the road to find a campsite. We spotted WSU and Arrow around in a pulloff together 30km north of Dunmarra, while Punch, MegaLux, and Stanford were all camped for the night at the Dunmarra Control Stop. It looked like a good enough place, so we decided to join them.

Punch charging in the evening in Dunmarra
MegaLux in Dunmarra.
MegaLux's array wiring. 
Stanford in Dunmarra. 

Punch working hard through the night in Dunmarra.

Race Day 2: 19 October 2015

We stared the 2nd race day in Dunmarra with Punch, Stanford, and MegaLux.

Morning charge

Stanford toolbox.

Very interesting details on Punch's front fairings.

Punch out on the road heading south out of Dunmarra. 

Twente was the first team into Tennant Creek.
Nuon was second into Tennant Creek

Tokai was 3rd, and Michigan 4th.

You can baaarely see Punch in the back in 5th.
Stanford showed up to a very lonely Tennant Creek, after the top 5 had departed.

We weren't able to catch up to the top teams in the latter half of the day - we were basically just driving by ourselves. We just missed them at the Barrow Creek control stop, although Stanford pulled in just as we were pulling out to continue onward in the hunt.

We caught up with Tokai and Punch at the end of the day, parked at
Conner's Well, at 1401km in the route notes.
Tokai's mirrors in action.
Punch's big white sheet is somewhat reflective as well, and that's certainly not in the bounding box...
Some wear and damage on the underside of Tokai's left fairing. Note the
missing leading edge in front of the rear wheel.
Details of mirror attachment.

Details of the underside of Tokai's fairings.

We ended the second day of WSC camped in the outback, somewhere around 1422km. Had some beers, watched the sunset, found spiders with our flashlights, and slept out under the stars. Fuckin' A.

Race Day 3: 20 October 2015

We woke up bright and early with the sunrise, broke down camp, and went hunting solar car teams. Michigan was located around 1423km - I have no idea how we didn't see them the previous night, they were nearly a literal stone's throw south of the pullout we camped at.

Nuon was spotted at the Plenty Highway intersection, 1427km in the route notes. Twente was located at Warburton Memorial, 1437km in the route notes. We stopped and said hi to both teams - Nuon said they stopped at 17:01 the previous night, and Twente at 17:06.

Twente charging in the morning. I don't recall this two-stage normalization being shown at inspection; the mirrors they showed on the chassis were nowhere to be seen. This is actually a really neat way to charge - tiling the chassis lowers the pivot for the array, allowing the array to be more upright. It also makes the chassis slightly narrower (although Twente's array is inboard of the edge of the chassis, so they don't particularly care). 

Twente got on the road before Nuon passed their charging position.
But Nuon was not far behind...

Punch charging in Alice Springs
Some tape covering up dings on the bottom of Tokai's car. 
This little fairing thingy has definitely see it's share of rocks. 
Stanford pulling into Alice Springs after the top 5 departed.
Arrow into Alice Springs. 
EcoPhoton showed up on trailer. Apparently they had a battery fire on the first day.
Carbon patched into the burned out hole. Pop-riveted in the front...
... carbon patch layup in the back.
Bochum in Alice Springs.

And that's basically it for the first three day, at least for the photos. This was the timing board when we departed for dinner, after 5pm. Based on ScientificGems latest post, the Challenger cars start spreading out a lot more after Nagoya.

Kogakuin, Eindhoven, and Bochum were the only Cruiser teams that had made it to Alice Springs. Sunswift drove in at 18:44 - and will take penalties for continuing to drive after 5pm, but at least they didn't trailer. Minnesota stopped driving when they were supposed to, and trailered in - but they did this two years ago, and back then, they were able to take their wall charge in Alice Springs, and then trailer back to where they stopped the previous day - and ended up being credited with all km under solar power.

I have to admit, I'm thoroughly shocked by Eindhoven's and Kogakuin's very close performance. Eindhoven has carried two people the whole way so far, but every time I've seen Kogakuin at the control stop, they've only had one person in the car. I wonder if they are taking a charge in Alice Springs, or if they're trying to do the whole route on solar power?

Anyway, that's all I have for now. We're in Alice Springs tonight (swing by campsite 87 at the caravan park if the lights are on), and plan a loooooong day tomorrow - we're going to do our best to beat the teams to the finish line. See you all there!