Thursday, July 13, 2017

WSC 2017 Update: July 13th

I've updated the sidebar with the WSC 2017 teams list and created new pages for new teams. The list on the WSC website is already down from the original 50 to only 47. The three teams that are already off after less than a week:

  • The #26 Missouri S&T team (as expected/announced by the team)
  • The #39 Estidamah team from Saudi Arabia
  • The #66 Creatti team from Columbia. I think this is the other team that came out of the EAFIT-EPM split-up. It's a shame neither EAFIT nor Creatti will be attending this year, as EAFIT-EPM did quite well two years ago.
Given how much WSC emphasized "A record 50 teams!" but then how quickly they removed some of those from the list of entrants, I kind of feel like WSC intentionally padded the list for publicity purposes...

Challenger Class

Michigan unveiled their new car Novum on the 7th, and like the rumors suggested, it's a based around a 2.64sqm multi-junction gallium-arsinide solar array. It's a teeny tiny little bullet of a car:

smol car
(image source)
Seriously, this thing is tiny
(Photo: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)
Long car is long
(Photo: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)
Carbon "roll structure" and leading arm front suspension.
(Photo: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)

The team published this rough 3D model you can spin around:

My first impression was "it's like if you cut the sides off of Solar Eagle III".

Cal State LA's Solar Eagle III, the winner of Sunrayce '97
(image sourceCC BY-SA 3.0)

It's also a little reminiscent of Kogakuin's 2013 car, Practice, which had a big ol' mono-fairing underneath a normal, wide array.

Kogakuin's Practice at WSC in 2013
(image source)

My second impression is "hey, they didn't forget the window in the back for the license plate this time!"

(sorry Michigan, I couldn't resist)

My third impression is "... huh. It's bigger than I expected". Michigan states that the car is 1m x 1m x 5m, which works out to a 5sqm planform - for only 2.64sqm of array. Even accounting for the fact that it doesn't actually have a full 5sqm of planview area due to the rounded front corners, and the smaller GaAs solar cells have a worse packing factor than large silicon cells due to more inter-cell gaps, it seems like an awfully large car for such a small array area. Particularly, it seems like there's a lot of wasted space up front. I'd suspect they were omitting cells up there to try to maintain laminar flow across a longer length of the car, but they've got that gap for the topshell to be removed right across the front - and taping that gap almost certainly won't preserve laminar flow. An ex-solarcar-aero guy I know semi-seriously stated "I expect Nuon to unveil an aerodynamically optimized version of this car in two weeks".

Note that Kogakuin's car is also 1m wide x 5m long, and it fits a full 4sqm silicon array...


Part of me wonders if they were/are hedging their bets on the array - What if the GaAs array doesn't work out? A silicon array is a comparatively cheap backup option. If you really filled up the whole top including the nose, how large of an array of cut silicon cells do you think could fit on this car? 3sqm? 3.2sqm? More? They could stick the last little chunk of cells (that don't fit on the top) onto the left side of the car, which will face a little north over the course of the race... better than nothing, right?

That might also explain why it has a removable array - so the team could swap arrays late in the game if needed. That's been bothering me because if I had designed this car, I would have done it as a Stanford-2013/2015-style monocoque. It's small enough that you should be able to get at everything through the driver hatch and the wheel access hatches (maybe you could pull the battery out backward through the rear fairing?), and just use a kickstand to tip the car for static charging (easy with such a narrow car). The resulting car would be stronger, lighter, and not have that big ol' seam all the way around the car that needs to get taped, and re-taped, and re-taped, and re-taped over and over throughout the course of the race...


ANYWAY. Even if the car has some extra whetted area on the front of the car, I suspect that it still has a better whetted-area-to-array-area ratio than the catamaran style cars, which is a pretty classic figure-of-merit for solar cars. Due to the monofairing, it has a little more than half of the vertical surface area of catamaran cars with similar length fairings, and that's a lot of surface area eliminated. Sure, the fairing itself is a little longer - due to the width requiring more opening and closing length - but this still looks very slick. The nose appears relatively blunt, but I'll bet it's specifically shaped to perform well in a variety of crosswind situations.

Novum is unique, different, and flat out cool. I'm nitpicking because I'm fascinated by it. I have no idea how it will do - it could run away with the race, or it could fall back from the leaders very quickly. The Michigan team are no dummies; they were the among the first teams to try a catamaran back in 2013 (just not as successfully as Nuon or Tokai), and I wouldn't expect them to do this unless they're fairly certain that this style of car will have a serious competitive advantage under the 2017 regs. We'll just have to wait and see.

3: Nuon

Nuon has hinted that Nuna 9 may be a large departure from their previous two cars, but I haven't heard any concrete rumors. It'll be unveiled on July 25th.

4: Antakari

There are a lot of construction photos on their social media. It looks like a "normal" 2-fairing catamaran, with the driver on the right.

6: MIT

Absolutely no news on their website/social media since they posted about the body layups way back in November.

Their WSC team page has a photo of their completed car, though!

(image source)

The car looks large compared to other cars this year, and I'm assuming that's the complete array (rather than a partially installed one). I think MIT must have designed the car and cut their molds around a 6sqm array, before the WSC '17 regs came out detailing the smaller arrays. Whoops :(

Building a new car before the regs are released is a huge risk, and I will never understand why teams with means and resources do it.

7: Adelaide University

The team is building a fairly normal 2-fairing catamaran, with the driver on the left. Their last updates were the body layups over the first half of June.

There's a render of their car on their WSC team profile:

(image source)

It appears very low to the ground, with a very large driver canopy. That style of roll cage terrifies me even more than the usual "just a small hoop behind the driver's head". You've already pre-buckled it! It's just asking to collapse on the driver in a rollover, crushing and pinning them into the car.

8: Punch Powertrain

Punch has already unveiled, and I posted some thoughts on the car here. Their car is a 2-fairing catamaran with the driver on the right, the front of the fairings blended into the leading edge of the array, and very little rear overhang.

Punch Two
(image source)

10: Tokai

No details about what Tokai is up to at this time.

CUER is building a gallium-array bullet car, in the same vein as their previous two cars - the rendering on the WSC teams page appears nearly indistinguishable from Evolution in 2015. It will have a tracking array, like they tried in 2013 (but not in 2015). 

CUER 2017. Longer with a blunter nose than in 2015?
(image source)
Evolution (2015)
Resolution (2013) (image sourceCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Couldn't you at least have pointed all of the arrays in the same direction for the photo shoot?

(Aside: it's a shame they finished Resolution so late and seemingly didn't publish any photos, the only photos I can find of it with the side array installed and any sort of front fairing are post-crash)

The bullet car concept will be more viable in 2017 than in 2013 or 2015 due to the higher proportion of allowed multi-junction gallium to silicon cells, but I still like Michigan's execution of the idea better than CUER's "let's put the array underneath a heavy, reflective, heat-trapping dome" concept. I think the aero gains of CUER's concept vs Michigan's are minimal at best - perhaps non-existent, considering how CUER's stays wide quite far up, whereas Michigan's car only has the tiny narrow bubble extending to the full height - and I think CUER's performance as a complete system will be worse overall. Let's not even get into the idea of a tracking solar array, which history has shown to be either heavy, failure prone, or both when used on solar vehicles over the rough roads of the Australian outback. Still, I'm very interested to see how their car stacks up against the competition this year.

So far I can't find any photos or other evidence of construction on the 2017 car.

13: Polytech Solar

The rookie team from Russia continues to post photos of car construction on VK

15: WSU

The team posted some photos of small components being built back in May, but has been relatively quiet since then. I'm not sure when the car is going to be unveiled, but it must be soon.

16: Stanford

The team unveiled their new car Sundae about two weeks ago, which we wrote about here. No real news since then.

18: UiTM EcoPhoton

Near the end of this video they posted to twitter in June, there are some time-lapse shots of the team doing body layups. Other than that, there's no news on the state of the car. The render on their WSC team profile appears indistinguishable from their 2015 car.

20: Durham

No news in the past few weeks. Given that the photo on their WSC team page is just a photo of their old car at WSC 2015, I'm pretty sure they're bringing that car back.

21: Twente

The team recently took a trip with Red Shift to a wind tunnel, and seem pretty happy with the results.

22: MDH

No real news about this team since they unveiled their car.

25: Nagoya Institute of Technology

"Our new machine coming soon!"

The rendering at the top of their page on the WSC 2017 website shows a sleek 2-fairing catamaran with the driver on the left, and a very rounded nose.

(image source)

The text on the team page notes that this is the very first car that they have specifically designed for WSC, and also the first car that they have designed with CFD.

28: Neul-Hae-Rang

I really can't find any information on this team. Their WSC page has a render of a 2-fairing catamaran, with the driver on the right and fairly far aft, and a very thin array airfoil.

(image source)

EDIT 7/14: Nigel found their Facebook page.

29: Siam Tech

I can't find any information on the progress of Siam Tech's Challenger-class team, "Edison". The render at the top of their WSC team page is the same one I posted here.

EDIT 7/14: Nigel found their Facebook page; it appears they have a mostly complete frame and the start of some body forms.

32: Principia

Principia formally unveiled their new car Ra X on Facebook, while they attended FSGP 2017 in Texas. The car is a 2-fairing catamaran with the driver on the right, and definitely appears to be on the short/wide end of the proportion spectrum, and the array planform is very rectangular.

(image source)
Narrower fairing on the non-driver side
(image source)

The car did not have a solar array at FSGP. I'm told a second upper was manufactured and already has the solar array installed, but the team didn't want to risk damaging it before the car's main event in Australia this fall. It was pretty clear that the electrical systems on the car were not 100% finished, and the team was treating FSGP as more of a "let's force ourselves to work on the car for a week straight" event rather than a real competition. It seems to have worked - although it took them a little bit of extra time in the garages to get the car prepped for the track, by the end of the week the car appeared to be driving great.

34: RVCE

Launch event "coming soon".

37: Goko High School

Another angle of the car was posted at the top of their team profile on the WSC site, and it really emphasizes how narrow this 3-fairing catamaran is:

(image source)

Design philosophy: "Go On A Quest For Fun!!" 

38: North-West University

One thing I missed in my last post: NWU is planning to tilt their array to track the sun! I thought I was being clever when I noticed the small seams underneath their array in the rendering and the round cross-section where it joins the car, and then I noticed they explicitly state "A decision was made to implement a rotating solar collector to maximise the collection of solar energy during the race." on their WSC team profile. They really *are* revisiting late 80's solar car ideas...

NWU 2018: Naledi
(image source)
Spirit of Biel, 3rd place at WSC 1987

NWU just posted a 40 DAYS image to Facebook with the caption "Naledi is coming", so look for an unveiling around August 22nd.

43: Australia National University

The team posted another rendering, better showing the weird wheel/driver compartment layout discussed here.

(image source)

Yep. 4-fairing asymmetric, with a wide rear track, narrow front track, and the driver contained behind the front left wheel.

It looks like they've just started construction on the frame.

46: Jonkoping University

The render on their WSC team profile shows a 2-fairing catamaran with zero front or rear overhang of the array, and the driver on the right. There are a few construction photos on Facebook and Instagram.

70: Sonnenwagen Aachen

The team has posted a lot of renders of a moderately sleek 2-fairing catamaran, although I have to say that the array protruding left and right out over the wheel fairings looks a lot more like a 2015 design feature than something that is really necessary with the new, smaller 2017 arrays. There are some construction photos on their facebook and instagram, but nothing super noteworthy here.

I believe they are unveiling on July 20th - so we'll see what the finished car really looks like.

71: Istanbul Technical University

ITU has been posting consistent teasers of construction photos, but no complete renders yet - only this teaser. We do know that it will be a 2-fairing catamaran, and that it has one of those awful carbon roll "hoops" that teams seem to insist on doing, and WSC continues to allow.

72: Proton

I couldn't find a single piece of information about this team, and their WSC team profile is entirely blank. Reader Nigel found the team's Facebook page, and it contains zero photos of any part of a car being worked on. Of all of the teams that are currently on the WSC team list, this is the one that I least expect to actually show up.

77: Blue Sky

The team has only posted a silhouette of their car, but it's clearly going to be a 2-fairing catamaran with a moderate front and rear overhang. They've also posted the odd construction photo or two, showing lower body layups over late May.

82: Kookmin University

(image source)

It looks pretty much like a WSC 2015 catamaran, just scaled down a little.

88: Kogakuin University

No real news since the unveiling. There are a few good closeups of Wing in this Bridgestone article, and Nigel raised a good question to me: How are they getting in and out of the car? There's no obvious door, and the canopy would have to slide waaaay forward for the driver to be able to get out from under the array. Sound off in the comments if you have ideas...

It's also worth point out that the article mentions there are 306 students on the team. Dang that's a lot of people, what do they all do?!?

Cruiser Class

5: SunSPEC

SunSPEC is pretty far along into building a 2-seat Cruiser car - there's a bunch of good stuff on their Facebook, including a render of the finished car. That giant, bluff rear end isn't going to do them any aerodynamic favors, though...

The team will be unveiling the car on July 21st.

9: PrISUm

Iowa State recently completed "SunRun", and is continuing to test the car in the USA. Earlier in the week, they did some testing at 3M headquarters in St. Paul.

Bochum unveiled the 4-seat Blue.Cruiser on July 5th, and it looks just like the renders promised it would:

(image source)
You really get a sense of scale in this photo with their previous three cars. SunRiser was a small car, and Blue.Cruiser looks much larger. Now I understand how they're fitting 4 people inside!

Left to right: Blue.Cruiser, SunRiser, SunCruiser, and SolarWorld GT
(image source)

Note that the portion of the array on the rear of the car appears to be entirely cut half-cells

The team has already shipped the car to Australia, which seems incredibly early! I assume they're going to be doing extensive testing in Australia ahead of the race.

14: Flinders

The team had their bare frame on display in Adelaide for WSC's PR event last week, but there's not a whole lot of progress visible than that.

23: University of Tehran

Their WSC team page has a rendering of a very aggressive looking sports car, and claims that it will be a 2+2 style car.

(image source)

The team hasn't posted any construction progress to social media.

30: Team Arrow

The team really hasn't posted much other than a few pretty car renderings of a sleek 2-seater.

(image source)

They've posted a single photo of a finished lower composite structure at the end of May, so progress is definitely being made. I don't think they've announced an unveiling date, though...

33: Cairo University

I was correct that the teams list was initially incorrect, this is indeed a Cruiser team. I also just noticed that "University" is misspelled...

I've found a Facebook page for the team, but they haven't posted any construction photos or information. Their WSC team profile is pretty bare as well.

35: IVE Sophie

Not much to report since the car was unveiled about two weeks ago.

40: Eindhoven

The team has been out doing some testing.


TAFE SA is build a very utilitarian style vehicle...

Based on Facebook, the team seems pretty far along in mechanical construction. Interestingly, their profile on the WSC 2017 page mentions a sleeper cab and the ability to pull a trailer. I've always joked about doing a solar car race where we don't limit the amount of array teams can have, but disallow all support vehicles and require all team members, tools, parts, etc to travel in the solar car...

45: Lodz

Lodz will be unveiling their new 4-seater in just under 7 hours. Based on their previous car, I'm assuming the quality will be high. I like the overall shape, although those swoops down the side are certainly for style and they'll take a hit on aero efficiency for that.

Siam Tech's Cruiser team has been posting pretty frequently to Facebook. The bodywork looks pretty rough, but at least they're making progress...

75: UNSW Sunswift

UNSW is still keeping the design of Violet close to their chests. I'm not sure when they're going to publicly unveil it.

94: University of Minnesota

Minnesota unveiled Eos II yesterday, and it looks pretty good! Definitely a step up in quality from the previous car in terms of fit&finish. It's another two-seater, and seems like it will have a relatively nicely finished interior. The rear of the car looks pretty good, but I'm a little more doubtful about the front - the nose seems pointlessly sharp, and the windshield is a bit odd.

Sharp look vinyl wrap
(image source)
Well-fitting array and wheel fairing
(image source)

You can see in this article that the front of the array gets quite narrow; moreso than the rear.

It's worth noting that UMN appears to be the only US-based team getting sponsored with Bridgestone Ecopia tires.

95: Apollo

Nothing really to report since their unveiling.

Adventure Class

52: Illini Solar Car

The team has been posting consistent and extensive construction progress to all of their social media, and it looks like they're very far along.

53: Mississippi Choctaw High School

This team claims to be the only Native American solar car team. They have a big 'ol 8.17sqm Sunpower array with a semi-laydown car - the American high school solar challenge folks appear to operate completely independently from all of the international solar car races and haven't updated their regs to match what the rest of the world has been doing over the past decade. This should be a FAST car, but it's sorta irrelevant because they're mostly on their own in the Adventure class.


  1. Re Taping seams

    Do you think that taping is considered part of "re-configuring the car to drive"?

    If so it has to be done by the driver alone, a bit difficult if you are in the cockpit.


    1. Good point - I would DEFINITELY consider that part of "re-configuring the car to drive". They could always drive down the road a bit before stopping again to tape, but that's on their own time...

  2. I suppose it depends if re-configuring means doing what you NEED to do to be ABLE to drive. If that is the definition then I suppose the driver could do that part and the team could then wait for the control stop clock to be stopped and then start taping. What is clear is that they are not allowed to touch the car until after the clock has stopped so, yes, taping would have to be on their own time.


  3. It looks like we have our answer:

    1. I guess that rules me out from ever driving it, but the rules don't say that driver egress has to be dignified - just quick.


  4. But what a beautiful design. I am very happy with the rules changes to allow for this variety and creativity. Kokaguin have taken their already very sleek and well executed surface design from their previous car Owl to the next level. Now let's hope it stays in one piece in the brutal and windy (Road trains) Outback.

    1. Absolutely, the thing that I like best about these bullet cars, Kogakuin, CUER, etc, is that I can see a day when the solar collection is done elsewhere and then you just have these sleek, single seat, electric cars. I cannot see myself in a catamaran type car in my local high street but would definitely drive a car like Wing or Evolution.

      The road trains terrify me with this car, I pray that they do plenty of testing first. On the other hand, on past performance, they seem to be able to make a stable car.


  5. Hi Mostdece! There is a typo in your section on PrISUm. PrISUm is representative of "Iowa State University", not Illinois State.

    Great coverage on all the competing teams!