Thursday, October 15, 2015

WSC 2015: 15 October 2015

Well, that's one more day down. When I left inspection, here was the state of the status board: 1, 2. Some teams were still finishing their first pass through scrutineering, so don't worry about the teams with no stickers. The WSC timing page has been updated, though (You need to select Static Scrutineering in the "view other days" dropdown at right). It looks like Bochum, MegaLux, and KIT have all passed as well.

Note that only two teams made it through every station in the first pass without any red stickers at all: Eindhoven and Lodz. Bravo to both of those teams for being well prepared!

I haven't had a lot of time to peruse team blogs while I've been in Australia (send me tips if you think you have something noteworthy!), but it's worthwhile to mention CUER's continued adventures with motors. It sounds like they finally have everything sorted, and good on them for passing on the karma and helping out WSU in a pinch.

Here's what the final day of inspection looked like:

The University of Adelaide shows off their array normalization. I heard a lot of hacksaw-on-aluminum noises but they got it up eventually.
Like several teams, they've set the array inboard a fair distance from the edge of the car. I wonder how many of the teams that have their array arranged like this are scrambling to find some aluminized mylar and get re-scrutineered to allow them to mimic Twente.
Adelaide's car has some pretty stout composites work between the left and right suspension.

Lodz with their full array, including dashboard panel
Adding required signage
Displaying array normalization, with the dashboard array moved outside to more of a "sunvisor" position. Later they came back and got re-scrutineered with two small aluminum stepladders as car stands, rather than the plywood stand shown here.

Power cable for the sunvisor array
The inside of Durham's car
Durham is one of the very few cars using dynamic (moving) wheel fairings this year. They have these doors on both the inner and outer surface of each fairing that hinge at the back. I don't think I've ever seen fairing doors hinged like this before, and for good reason. If the wind catches them and pulls them open... ouch. Not sure if these will make it to Adelaide.
Durham's array normalization.
Very little structure under their solar cells.
EPM-EAFIT came back to get some stuff re-inspected, and it looks like the their array has some sort of protective film over the surface that they'll remove fully before the race - I'm definitely happy that the array is not delaminating, like thought when I saw it on the first day of inspection.
MegaLux normalizing their array.
Note the amazingly clean array wiring. 
The completely clear driver bubble is probably pretty toasty for the driver, but the physical mirrors inside the bubble are a nice touch. Definitely better than a rear-view display that's hard to see in direct sunlight, and that you have a secret shutoff switch for (those precious milliwatts!) and then lie to the inspectors about - be honest, we've all pulled that trick. 
One more shot of the super-clean chassis on this car.
SunSpec carefully unrolling their array cover.
SunSpec's battery pack
I missed getting a photo os SunSpec's array normalization, but the whole array panel is removable. It looked like the propped it up to point slightly sideways with a 2x4.

Cambridge starting to set up their array normalization for the judges... 
The array is removed from the car and placed on tripods.
And then an array panel (sans cells for now, but they'll be installed soon) with silicon cells is laid next to the nose of the car.

Evolution's array does not track the sun, unlike Resolution's array was going to in 2013. A team member told me that the team had to make a choice between not putting solar cells over the rear wheels to allow clearance for the panel to track the sun, or include more cells under the rear bubble but forgo tracking. The team did some calculations and determined extra cells with no solar tracking was the clear choice. It's also worth noting that these are not new cells - the array was salvaged from Resolution.

ITS showing off their array normalization.
Some issues with door fitment.
They were rolling the car around the inspection hall on near-flat tires all day. I cringed every time they moved it. 
Generally speaking, the car actually looks kind of cool when you're up close. It sort of has this low, hulking musclecar-like presence .
EcoPhoton showing off how Stingray's array will be normalized
Stingray has a very strange array - Sunpower cells diced half-size. To boost module voltage and allow more tracker channels? 
Houston's car opened up for inspection.
The University of Tehran's very challenger-like Cruiser car also normalizes it's solar array like most of the Challenger cars.

The driver cockpit in Persian Gazelle III
Very stout looking front suspension.
I guess the rear seat passenger doesn't straddle the driver, they just don't have any legroom. Note the split battery - half on either side of the passenger.
Uninsulated tools sitting on top of an open battery pack; one about to fall in! Noooooo!
Some views of the chassis of NIT's Horizon Z.

NIT array normalizing

Anadolu array normalizing

A look at the cockpit of Liberty Christian's car.
Tokai rolled in to cheers and applause. I'm not sure why they were applause-worthy while teams like Nuon weren't. There was definitely always a crowd around their car...
Tokai's traditional Sanyo HIT array. Folks definitely gave these cells some credit for Tokai's victory in 2009 and 2011. They're basically unobtainium for non-Japanese teams.
The inside of Tokai's car, revealing mysteries strapped down in the front and back.
A row of mirrors aligned along one edge of the car. I assume that's some sort of protective film over the mirrors right now, and they'll be silver on the race?
Up goes the whole car...

And there it is, as far up as I saw it go. There was always a crowd around (despite very few people in the inspection hall; Tokai was the last regularly-scheduled car to arrive), so this is the best photo I could snag from up top.
A look at the structure supporting the car and mirrors.
After seeing Tokai's array normalization, I took off for the track. RVCE showed up to register their team members right as I was leaving - although their car was still out in Hidden Valley when I got their. Members at the track said they expect their battery tomorrow.

Solar car can be exhausting
A closer look at Beijing's Sun Shuttle II. Only the right rear wheel is driven.
Left rear suspension. Wait, those angles look different...
Massive difference in ride height on each side with the driver out of the car. Look at the negative camber gain on the right side when it's unloaded! If I haven't made it clear, I am terrified of this car. 
Checking out WSU's sexy carbon rear suspension. 

Custom Marand motor with carbon housing on the right rear wheel.
WSU's steering rack. Note the paint marks on the upper wishbones to see if the steering tie rods are rubbing. Looks like they are just a little bit...
A look at the front suspension. The upper wishbone is mounted at the slight angle, which should give the suspension some camber gain with bump - a good thing. I wasn't able to get a good view, but I suspect the lower arm is almost mounted at a (slightly lower) angle to minimize tire scrub with bump.

WSU assured me that the red duct tape on the front wheel covers is indeed from some last-minute aerodynamic re-contouring, and it'll finished up much prettier with matching vinyl by the start of the race.

A look down the front of Arrow's very sleek car.
I haven't seen too much of Arrow, due to them getting through inspection a day early - and I've missed them the few times I've been out to the track so far. Hopefully I'll see more of them and their car when I'm camped out at the track for the next two days. This is the same car that they raced to 7th place as a first-time team in 2013, and it held the lap record at Hidden Valley - just a few milliseconds over 2 minutes. They're looking to hold onto the top spot this year, and they have their work cut out for them - they tell me that they've clocked Michigan at 1:59 or so during practice.

In the evening, there was an event barbecue hosted by Bridgestone. Great food, and I think the teams had a lot of fun! A lot of footballs and frisbees made an appearance. This is the last time they'll really get to unwind as a group until the finish line. 

So now that inspection is (mostly) over and I've had a chance to really look over each of the cars, here are a few closing thoughts:

Challenger: I think it's going to be a tight field this year; Nuon may have some serious challengers for the title. They don't seem to have anything up their sleeves this year, just a refined version of last race's car - whereas their competition seem to be trying to push the boundaries. In particular, Twente is really chomping at the bit - you can see exactly how badly they want a win. Michigan also looks like they have a lot of fight in them. On the other hand, I'm not super impressed with Tokai's car - superficially, it looks flawless, but then I look at details like the blend at the trailing edge of the fairings and just laugh uproariously.

Stanford looks like they have solid car that has a good chance at a podium finish, although I'm not sure about the overall win.

Arrow, Toronto, Punch, and Principia all have cars that look well built and I'd expect to see them among the top 10 (I just realized I didn't post any photos of Principia from the first day of inspection - sorry about that!).

MegaLux and WSU are kind of wildcards. Their cars are manufactured extremely nicely, and although we haven't really seen what either team can do yet, WSU did very well for a rookie team in 2013 and MegaLux has been very successful in EcoMarathon.

All of the top teams have put a lot of effort into making sure they can normalize their array as far as possible within the new rules. The top teams are disproportionately represented among the teams that are tilting their whole cars (Stanford, Punch, WSU, Tokai, UKZN, and maybe Kogakuin).

Cruiser: I'm still convinced that Kogakuin is going run away with it, but honestly, I have no idea what to expect for 2nd place. Bochum, Minnesota, and Tehran are the only three teams that have anything even resembling an array normalization plan - UNSW, IVE, and Eindhoven all only pop the trunk panel up, while ITS, Lodz, and Kogakuin tilt the car backwards very slightly with stands of some sort. SunSpec tilts their array slightly (well under 45 degrees from horizontal).

I think the top four teams from last year (Eindhoven, Bochum, UNSW, and Minnesota) are the teams to watch for 2nd place. Tentatively, Minnesota and Eindhoven may have an edge over Bochum and UNSW - they have a LOT more array on their cars, and that's going to matter much more this year. But without knowing aero drag values for each car, I'm really just guessing.

The cars from Tehran, SunSpec, and particularly Lodz all have potential, but I'm not sure what to expect from the teams.

Whelp, that's all I've got tonight. See you tomorrow, folks! I'm going to be out at Hidden Valley all day trying to get some sweet action shots.


  1. Thanks again for all the dedication and great work!
    The weight of Tokai of 180kg seems on the high side, not sure if their HIT array and mirror will be making the difference to the better aero and -30kg of Nuon.
    I am curious to see if Twente will beat everyone with Sabine and their split array; I am not impressed by their mirror: when the sun is that low to have the array almost fully vertical there will not be much (useful) reflected energy at those angles.
    Also impressed by the build quality of MegaLux, but not sure how they have kept the weight to a minimum and their aero optimized.
    Michigan looks strong and determined to blast off ahead of everyone on Day 1, certainly a contender.
    Happy to see CUER back on track, a bit disappointed about leaving the tracking system out and not having brand new highest quality GaAs cells.
    Stanford looks solid for spot 3-6.
    For the Cruisers I still agree with you about Kogakuin, but feel that Eindhoven will take 2nd as they will score highest on practicality and person-kms while having a large and new array. Not so sure who will come after that.
    Looking forward to Saturday on Hidden Valley, hoping that no team will crash their car in an attempt to get out of Darwin Sunday traffic ahead of competition.

    1. I would agree with you about Eindhoven if this were 2013, but the scoring rules have changed - see my post here on the topic.

      Both Bochum and Sunswift will give them a run for their money when it comes to practicality - Bochum's car is about as pleasurable to sit in as a real car (feels a LOT like a 1st-gen Insight), and Sunswift has added a ton of weight to make the interior nicer (I've been told both 100kg and 200kg added, between all of the improvements to the interior and doors)

      Eindhoven's big advantage over those two is actually their solar array, which is going to be a big help when they can only charge off the grid in Alice Springs - but I don't think it's going to be enough to counteract the fact it's a brick (a streamlined brick, but a brick nonetheless).

      Here's my call for speeds after seeing what the teams are doing for normalization: Kogakuin above 70kph, Bochum and Minnesota around 65kph, Endhoven and Sunswift both around 60kph.

  2. A great post once again.

    I think it is too close to call this year for the winner but I suspect that we might see the highest number of finishers ever. The quality of the cars overall seems to be much better with the lesser known teams learning lessons fro the top teams.

    Twente are very keen but then they have a great incentive. It was publicly, perhaps foolishly, announced a while back that they have to win or lose their backing. That's too much pressure.

    I'm not at all surprised that CUER are using their old array. They cost nearly a quarter of a million Euros back in 2013. They were funded by a group of businessmen and I would not want to be the one to go back to them and ask for another quarter million after what happened last time. The reason that they are short of the 3 m2 is that they deposited a few thousand pounds worth of them in the gravel on the Cox Peninsular Road.

    Just a bit of fun, Ardingly are claiming two world records -

    It had occurred to me that this ought to be the case :)


    1. Agreed about a high number of finishers; we may see as many as 15.

      About Twente: I was wondering if I'd hallucinated their announcement (last year?) that they have to win or lose their support! I can't find any links to that announcement...

      About Ardingly's "world records" - definitely know the 2nd one isn't true, Missouri S&T has had some fast escapes in their past few cars. 2.94s is damn impressive though.

    2. I study at Twente, and I can confirm that their funding from the Uni will most likely be cut if they dont win. Here is an article:
      If you ask the solar team themselves, they believe they can do without the Universities funding, but I strongly believe that a lot of their sponsors will follow suite if the Uni leaves.
      Having said that, I think they have a really good car this year. Worked incredibly hard with former teams, large companies and some of their team members have valuable experience from EcoMarathon. And while ive been following this awesome blog. I would really like to hear your honest opinion (since you have a ton of experience) on wether you think they can win or not?

    3. Also. How are their qualification laps looking? Good enough for a top 3 start?

    4. Here is a link to the 'announcement' (by the university, rather than by the team), sadly only in Dutch. The team's official response is below, again Dutch only.

      In between the lines the university does not want to keep playing second fiddle to Delft (world's third and national last is a weird place). They will increase their sponsorship by 50%, as well as provide extra nonmonetary support, to at least go out on a proper effort.

      The team will obviously keep trying their hardest, and value the added effort, but emphasise that more money does not make as much of a difference in the age of silicon panels. They do hope that there will be a continuation past 2015, and seem a bit skeptical about the hard requirement of victory.

    5. > I would really like to hear your honest opinion (since you have a ton of experience) on wether you think they can win or not?

      Can they win? Sure. They seem to have a great car. But I could say the same about several teams. Will they win? Can't say. There are way too many factors that you can't suss out just by looking at the car and observing the team - and not a small amount of luck, as well. All I can say is I think it will be a very tight race.

      > How are their qualification laps looking? Good enough for a top 3 start?

      Haven't been timing everyone, but Arrow was on the pole in 2013 and is definitely shooting to beat their previous record (2 minutes and some milliseconds). Michigan is super fast on the track - reportedly with a 1:59 lap at one point, and I've seen a 2:01 and 2:03. Someone told me they'd clocked Eindhoven with a 1:54. I've seen fast laps from Twente, WSU, and a few others as well.

  3. Fantastic post, once again!

  4. This is indeed a dece blog of the internet, it delivers. I am slightly worried about the cross wind performance of these catamarans with their asymmetrical aero and weight distribution. In 2013 there were four catamarans, two of them had accidents while the other two took 1st and 2nd place. From the videos it showed that the catamarans were sometimes unstable on the road requiring the driver to maneuver in order to adjust for the unequal distribution of forces.

    1. Yep, I'm worried as well about their stability (although more about left/right weight balance). We've already had one spin at Hidden Valley (Stanford), although fortunately the car wasn't damaged.

    2. The race is almost completely straight though and the race track is a controlled environment. During the race its hard to predict the variables posed by crosswinds, headwind, roadtrains (-pressure), and outback in general. Hopefully the teams have plans for all these.

  5. Thanks for the great post! Nice to be able to see so many pictures/stories while not there ;)