Thursday, September 21, 2017

WSC 2017 Update: September 21st

Poking around on archive.org recently, I came across the "Top Ten Lies Told by Solar Car Teams" on the old Sunrayce website. Aaaand... Yep, 20 years later, I think the list is still pretty much right.

I also ran across this interesting Japanese website and accompanying Facebook page. The author noticed that Punch's car clearly couldn't fit a 4sqm silicon array at the time of unveiling (about a month and a half before I noticed), and had some interesting thoughts about Twente when they unveiled.

Scientific Gems has made two posts (1, 2) about Cruiser scoring this year - go check them out. Watch this space for a post about the Cruiser cars (and a little bit about scoring) early next week.

Location updates

In Darwin

  • Nuon, Punch, Twente, Blue Sky have all been in Darwin with their cars for over a week.  Nuon just received their battery
  • Eindhoven received their car and finally their battery. 
  • JU and Sonnenwagen Achen have both recently arrived and received their cars.
  • MDH team members are on the ground in Darwin, but no car yet.
  • Durham's advance team recently arrived in Darwin.
  • RVCE's car has cleared customs, and the team will arrive on Monday.

In the Outback

  • WSU, Stanford, Kogakuin, and Bochum are all testing/mock racing near Coober Pedy. We heard some very vague rumors about an incident with Kogakuin's car late on Wednesday the 20th.
  • Principia is somewhere in the middle of the outback - I think they're just trailering north rather than test driving.
  • UNSW is heading north, although I'm not sure if they're doing a test drive or on a trailer.
  • A reader has sent us some photos of Goko testing in the outback.

In South/East Australia

  • Michigan completed their mock race, and I believe they have returned to their base in Adelaide rather than continue north to Darwin (I could be wrong on this, however).
  • PrISUm is in Adeliade, preparing to drive north for some outback testing on the way to Darwin.
  • CUER has finally received Mirage in Adelaide after a lengthy delay at customs and quarantine in Melbourne.
  • Minnesota is still in Melbourne, waiting for the rest of the team to arrive and getting their car prepared to head north.
  • The Illini team has arrived in Melbourne and expect to pick their car up soon.
  • Portions of the ITU team are in Sydney and the car is waiting to clear customs in Melbourne.
  • Australian teams: Adelaide University hasn't posted anything about departing north to Darwin yet. ANU is still in Canberra, Flinders and TAFE SA have just recently unveiled and are still in Adelaide, and Team Arrow is still in Brisbane.
  • Antakari are evidently in Australia somewhere, perhaps Sydney.

Not yet in Australia

  • Shipped but not much other news: NIT, NWU, UiTM, Kookmin, SunSPEC, Lodz, Siam Tech, Apollo.
  • Uncertain if shipped, but completed car: Tokai, Neul-Hae-Rang, Mississippi Choctaw.
  • Shipped an incomplete car: Tehran.


Challenger Class

2: University of Michigan

Status: Team and car in Australia.

The team performed a mock race in the outback between September 9th and 15th, and it seems to have been a success. The team posted a bunch of photos to Flickr. A Facebook post states they have "returned", so I think they've backtracked to Adelaide rather than continued north to Darwin?

3: Nuon

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

The car has been in Australia for a while, and the team has finally received their battery, along with Eindhoven's. It looks like there's a fair amount of assembly yet to do.

4: Antakari

Status: Shipped. Antakari shipped Intikallpa IV to Australia on September 10th.

Apparently WSC has contact the WSC officials from Sydney at some point.

7: Adelaide University

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled Lumen II on August 29th.

No news since then.

8: Punch Powertrain

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

Punch has started test driving at a local airstrip, which sounds like an adventure as the airstrip is apparently still active... Note Punch still hasn't put the real solar array on the top of the car and is using the fake/camouflage solar array to cover the top during test drive.

Interestingly, although the steel tube structure around the driver's head that I talked about here was indeed a temporary item, you can see in some photos that it has been replaced with a carbon element rather than omitted entirely. It's good to see some teams start to think about protecting the driver's head from front impacts.

10: Tokai

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled the 2017 Tokai Challenger on August 29th.

I've seen it before, but I ran across Hideki Kimura's personal website again. He's posted a lot of detail of Tokai's 2017 car, including a very interesting photo of a catamaran design that it was evaluated against:

"Type A" Catamaran
"Type B" Monohull

Note that in the catamaran concept, the array didn't stick out sideways from the wheel fairings - very reminiscent of Nuon or NIT.

12: Cambridge University

Status: Team and car in Adelaide.

CUER has started their WSC 2017 blog.

After nearly a week of unexpected delays in customs and quarantine inspection, CUER has finally received Mirage. It sounds like the team still has a fair amount of work to do on the car... You can see the chassis and lower starting at 0:06 in this unpacking video.

15: WSU

Status: Testing in the outback near Coober Pedy.

WSU has spent the past week in the outback, testing Unlimited 2.0. They've been having fun with Bochum, and Stanford as well:


Dang, I miss the outback.

16: Stanford

Status: Testing in the outback near Coober Pedy.

Stanford has also been posting a few photos from their outback mock race, with a Bochum cameo included.

18: UiTM EcoPhoton

Status: Shipped. The team unveiled TUAH on September 9th, and shipped it to Australia on September 20th.

No other news this week.

20: Durham

Status: Car shipped, advance team in Darwin.

Durham shipped their car to Australia on July 18th. The advance team touched down in Darwin today, and the core team has already departed the UK.

21: Twente

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

A local Darwin news station shot a video with the team.

Of interest, there are some good detail shots of the inside of the car. I'm really not sure what was worth blurring out in their old video, I didn't see anything super secret... but maybe I'm just not looking right. I do see some curiously asymmetric bulkheads in the front of the car around 6 seconds in, but I suspect that's just for clearance around the members used to normalize the array. We can also see a cable/capstan steering mechanism, as seen on their 2015 car (and Punch's 2017 entry). The front suspension is a normal double-A-Arm, and it uses trailing arm suspension in the rear. If I'm not mistaken, it's a non-Akerman steering geometry up front...

The team also posted blogs on aerodynamics and structure.

22: MDH

Status: Team in Darwin, car shipped. 

The team shipped the car to Australia on September 11th. Team members have arrived in Darwin, although the car has not.

25: Nagoya Institute of Technology

Status: Shipped. NIT shipped Horizon 17 to Australia on August 9th.

I believe the team is preparing to depart.

28: Neul-Hae-Rang

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled Woong-bi on June 25th.

No news since then.

32: Principia

Status: Team and car in the outback.

Principia is somewhere out in the middle of the outback. I believe they're bringing Ra X straight to Darwin on a trailer, rather than doing a mock race type testing event.

34: RVCE

Status: Car in Australia, team to follow soon.

The team says their crate has cleared customs, and the team will join it on Monday the 25th.

37: Goko High School

Status: Team and car in the outback.

A reader has sent us some photos of Goko testing in the outback.

If you poke back through the other photos, it looks like Goko had a front right suspension failure during testing at Suzuka around June 26th or 27th...

38: NWU

Status: Shipped. The team unveiled Naledi on August 22nd, and shipped it sometime around August 30th.

No news this week.

43: Australia National University

Status: Unveiled. 

The team unveiled their car on September 19th, and it's pretty clear that the team still has a ways to go before they have a functional car. I foresee many more sleepless nights between now and October 8th...

46: Jonkoping University

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

The Sonnenwagen team spotted Solveig's crate in Darwin on Friday, and JU said they'd be picking it up this past Monday. The team had some delays getting to Australia, but has finally arrived and picked up their car.

Sounds like the team is having fun.

70: Sonnenwagen Aachen

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

The team recently received their car and has started unpacking in Darwin.

71: Istanbul Technical University

Status: Part of the team in Sydney, car on the ground in Melbourne(?)

A portion of the team is currently in Sydney, and the rest of the team will arrive on the 27th. The team carried parts of their battery in their checked luggage - you can carry up to two batteries in checked luggage, each under 100Wh, so a typical solar car battery would need to be split into around 25 individual portions to be "shipped" this way.

It sounds like the car may be on Australia soil already, waiting to clear customs in Melbourne. Hopefully it clears faster than CUER's car did!


77: Blue Sky

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

The team has passed safety inspection and will be testing on the road very soon.

82: Kookmin University

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Taegeuk to Australia at the end of July.

No news since then.

88: Kogakuin University

Status: Testing in the outback near Coober Pedy.

The team departed north from Adelaide on the 18th, and plans to arrive in Darwin on the 25th.

They've been posting tons of photos and a video to Twitter, as well as a video on Facebook and a blog post.

We heard a rumor through the Bochum-Stanford-WSU grapevine that Kogakuin may have had an accident late on the 20th. The last time they posted to Twitter was around 3:47pm on the 20th, Coober Pedy time, and after two busy days of social media, the team was silent throughout 21st. Internet access is really spotty in the outback, but I don't think sudden silence + crash rumors is a good sign.

Cruiser Class

5: SunSPEC

Status: Car shipped, some team members in Australia.

SunSPEC 5 was shipped to Darwin on September 5th, and a portion of the team departed for Adelaide on the 19th. I assume they're picking up rental vehicles in Adelaide and road tripping up to meet the car in Darwin (round-trip rentals are generally cheaper than one-way).

9: PrISUm

Status: Team and car in Adelaide, preparing to head north.

PrISUm unloaded Penumbra into a workspace in Adelaide early this week. They've visited Victoria Square with the car and met with WSC officials, and are preparing for a 7-day test in the outback around Coober Pedy.

11: Hochschule Bochum

Status: Testing in the outback near Coober Pedy.

After some shipping drama, Blue.Cruiser finally arrived in Coober Pedy about a week ago. After some preparation and inspection, the team started driving a few days ago. They've published a great video overview of the past week.

14: Flinders

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled Investigator Mark III on September 11th.

I believe the team is preparing to leave for Darwin extremely soon.

23: University of Tehran

Status: Shipped an incomplete car.

In a comment on the WSC discussion group on Facebook, a member from Tehran stated that the car was shipped in an incomplete state, and the team intends to meet it in Darwin on September 28th.

This is the most-complete photo of the car that they have posted. If that's really the current state of the car, they have an absolutely massive amount of work to complete in the few days before inspection starts...

30: Team Arrow

Status: Unveiled!

With about one day's notice, Team Arrow unveiled Arrow STF today. There's a good video here.

(image source)

It's a two seater with a cut silicon array. My first impression is that it looks like a much more refined version of UNSW's eVe, and that it looks like it would have done really well in 2013 or 2015, but I'm a little dubious of how high 2-seaters will score under the 2017 Cruiser regulations.

35: IVE Sophie

Status: Shipped. IVE shipped Sophie VI out to Australia on August 28th.

No news this week.

40: Eindhoven

Status: Team, car, and batteries all in Darwin!

Eindhoven finally received both the car and their batteries in Darwin at the start of the week. Look at how happy they look! This has to be a huge relief for them. No time to rest, though...

42: TAFE SA

Status: Unveiled!

TAFE SA unveiled their "Solar Articulated Vehicle" yesterday.

(image source)
Interesting door mechanism
(image source)
Cargo area in the back; almost a solar 'ute
(image source)

45: Lodz

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Eagle Two to Australia on July 17th.

Lodz has been doing some team bonding. No news on the car - last we heard, it had made it to Singapore around the end of August.

49: Siam Tech

Status: Car shipped, team to depart soon. 

Siam Tech shipped Nikola on September 6th. The team should be departing extremely soon.

75: UNSW Sunswift

Status: Unveiled, heading north. 

Due to an accident while testing, the team delayed unveiling from September 14th to the 22nd. However, it sounds like repairs went quicker than expected and the team elected to stick to their original schedule and depart on Wednesday, rather than sticking around until the new Friday unveiling.

The team posted a video of some track testing. As expected from the teaser images, Violet is a long, sleek, 4-door, 4-seat car:

(image source, 0:55)

This article also has some decent photos and information. Note that they claim it has fucntional air conditioning...

94: University of Minnesota

Status: Car and partial team in Melbourne.

Some team members have been in Melbourne for a few days, and they are preparing Eos II for the drive north to Adelaide while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive.

The team posted an album of motor construction photos to Flickr.

95: Apollo

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Apollo VIII to Adelaide on August 23rd.

The team appears to be preparing to depart.

Adventure Class

52: Illini Solar Car

Status: Team in Melbourne, car waiting to clear customs.

Most of the team has arrived in Melbourne, and they expect to pick up Argo soon.

53: Mississippi Choctaw High School

No news this week.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

WSC 2017 Update: September 14th

It's been two weeks since we did a full team update, and a lot has happened. Teams are starting to arrive; here's a really brief overview of where teams are at in Australia

Nuon, Punch, Twente, and Blue Sky are all already in Darwin with their cars. The Sonnenwagen Achen and Eindhoven teams are also in Darwin; both teams are waiting for their cars to arrive from elsewhere in Australia.

Michigan and WSU are doing their own mock races in the outback, and should be arriving in Darwin relatively soon. Stanford has received their car in Adelaide and is planning their own mock race for the drive north. The Principia team received their car and is heading north to Darwin as well.

Bochum received their crate of equipment and the solar car battery in Sydney, and is currently heading north along the Stuart Highway. I don't think they have received Blue.Cruiser yet, however.

CUER in Adelaide, waiting for car to clear quarantine in Melbourne.

PrISUm's car is in Sydney, team will arrive over the weekend.

Some part of the Minnesota team has arrive in Melbourn, but I haven't heard any news about the car yet.

Challenger Class

2: University of Michigan

Status: Team and car in Australia! The team and Novum arrived in Adelaide around September 1st.

Michigan arrived and settled into their workspace in Adelaide. In this post about cooking (not a small matter! An army marches on it's stomach...), we learned that the team planned a mock race Sept 9-15 in the Outback between Glendambo and the Northern Territory border. They're out there right now, but must nearly be done. Expect them in Darwin soon.

3: Nuon

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

Last week Nuon received their car in Darwin, but the team had some issues shipping their battery. It sounds like these issues got ironed out on Monday, and the team will receive their battery very soon.

4: Antakari

Status: Shipped.

Antakari shipped Intikallpa IV to Australia on September 10th.

7: Adelaide University

Status: Unveiled (and in Australia already). The team unveiled Lumen II on August 29th.

No news since then.

8: Punch Powertrain

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

Punch is setting up shop in Darwin and putting the finishing touches on Punch Two.

10: Tokai

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled the 2017 Tokai Challenger on August 29th.

The team has been testing at Bridgestone's proving ground.

12: Cambridge University

Status: Team in Australia, car in transit.

CUER has started their WSC 2017 blog. Team members started arriving in Adelaide around September 7th, and they're planning to depart north for Darwin around the 20th, which will place them in Darwin around the 25th.

Mirage has landed in Melbourne and cleared customs, although as of the 13th it still hadn't cleared quarantine.

15: WSU

Status: Heading north, about to start mock race.

WSU is about to start their mock race in the Coober Pedy area.

16: Stanford

Status: Team and car in Adelaide.

The Stanford team is in Adelaide with their car, and is planning some race training in the outback on the way north to Darwin.

18: UiTM EcoPhoton

Status: Unveiled!

The team unveiled TUAH on September 9th.

(image source)

It looks pretty much like the car they brought to the last WSC, except white instead of silver/chrome. The same cut-silicon array, too.

Given what happened last time, uh, maybe go easy on the smoke machine? Just a thought.

20: Durham

Status: Shipped. Durham shipped their car to Australia on July 18th.

No news since then.

21: Twente

Status: Team and car in Darwin!

Red Shift was supposed to arrive in Darwin on Sept 1st, but encountered shipping delays. Fortunately, the car cleared customs in Sydney and arrived in Darwin on the 7th.

Note in this unpacking photo that there's not array on the (visible) upper at the moment - we haven't actually seen Twente's array yet; it didn't have one installed when any of the testing photos were taken.

The team is doing a one-by-one driver reveal on Twitter, which is kind of neat, but I just can't look away from those weirdo boots. I can't imagine them driving the car with boots on (they simply wouldn't have fit in the solar cars that I drove back in the day), so those are special photo shoot boots, which only raises more questions...?

These details are the kind of weird shit my mind latches on to. I am so sorry.

22: MDH

Status: Shipped.

The team shipped the car to Australia on September 11th.

25: Nagoya Institute of Technology

Status: Shipped. NIT shipped Horizon 17 to Australia on August 9th.

No news since then.

28: Neul-Hae-Rang

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled Woong-bi on June 25th.

No news since then.

32: Principia

Status: In Australia!

The team tweeted that they have taken possession of the car in Australia, and are preparing to head north (from wherever they are in AU) to Darwin.

34: RVCE

Status: Unveiled. The team unveiled Arka on August 5th.

No news since then.

37: Goko High School

Status: Car Complete. We've seen several photos of the completed 2017 Musoushin.

No social media, so we're not gonna know any more unless we get tips from teams in Australia that have seen them.

38: NWU

Status: Shipped. The team unveiled Naledi on August 22nd, and shipped it sometime around August 30th.

No news since then, although they've been posting headshots of each team member to social media.

43: Australia National University

Status: Unveiling Scheduled. A team member mentioned in a Facebook comment that they are planning to launch the car on September 19th

It sounds like it's really coming down to the wire for these folks. They've started posting some stuff to social media, like this relatively finished chassis, and their chassis lead feeling some schedule pressure. They're also discovering some last-minute electrical issues.

The team plans to head north to Darwin around September 24th, and acknowledge that it's going to be a scramble to get the car done in time. Good luck, folks...

46: Jonkoping University

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Solveig on August 30th.

The team posted some new photos from prior test driving to their blog. They're also going to have live tracking during the race.

70: Sonnenwagen Aachen

Status: Team in Darwin, car in Australia!

Huawei Sonnenwagen touched down in Sydney on September 9th.

Some team members are in Darwin, and they expect to have the car through customs and quarantine and delivered to Darwin by the middle of next week.

71: Istanbul Technical University

Status: Unveiled, Shipped(?). The team unveiled B.O.W (Bees On Wheels) on August 9th. A crate construction photo was posted on August 30th, but the team never confirmed when the car actually shipped

The team has been relatively quiet - the last photos of the car were posted on Sept 2nd and 5th. The team may be having issues shipping the car and batteries, or they may just be trying to plan contingencies in case of issues. Hard to tell.

77: Blue Sky

Status: Team and car in Darwin!
Blue Sky picked up Polaris in Melbourne on the 7th, arrived in Darwin on the 10th, and are settling into their workshop.

82: Kookmin University

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Taegeuk to Australia at the end of July.

No news since then.

88: Kogakuin University

Status:  Shipped. The team shipped Wing to Adelaide on July 31st.

Last week, Bridgestone posted a video about the team and the car. Real nice drone shot at 0:24!

The team has published a schedule for WSC detailing that the team depart north from Adelaide on the 18th, and arrive in Darwin on the 25th.

Kogakuin also posted some photos of their custom power trackers.

Cruiser Class

5: SunSPEC

Status: Shipped. Singapore Polytechnic shipped SunSPEC 5 to Australia on September 5th.

SunSPEC also posted a short test drive video.

9: PrISUm

Status: Car in Australia! Team to follow soon.

Iowa State shipped Penumbra on September 2nd, and it landed in Sydney on the 8th, followed by the batteries in Melbourne on the 10th. The team is due to follow on the 16th.

It sounds like everything has cleared customs and quarantine smoothly, and is just waiting to be picked up.

11: Hochschule Bochum

Status: Team in Australia, car coming soon?

Last week in Sydeny Bochum received their crate that contains everything except the car. At the time, Blue.Cruiser was still in Kuala Lumpur. It sounds like they expect to receive the car by the end of the week. Currently, different portions of the team have met up in Coober Pedy.

14: Flinders

Status: Unveiled! The team unveiled Investigator Mark III on September 11th.

(image source)

It's apparently a three seat car. It's not quite done yet (the interior is a little spartan) and they acknowledge that it's "down a little bit to the wire", but it looks like they're close...

It's really bothering me that I can't place the headlights. I got a real R34 Skyline vibe from the front, but those are't quite the right headlights.

23: University of Tehran

Status: L A M B O D O O R S

I'm really worried that we won't see Persian Gazelle make it to WSC this year; they're rapidly running out of time to ship and it looks like they have a lot of work left to do.

30: Team Arrow

Status: ?????

35: IVE Sophie

Status: Shipped. IVE shipped Sophie VI out to Australia on August 28th.

No news this week.

40: Eindhoven

Status: Team in Australia, car and battery soon.

The team shipped Stella Vie to Australia on August 19th. The initially had some issues with the car AND the battery shipments, but it sounds like the car is on the ground in Australia and the battery is too.

The team has already made the drive from Adelaide to Darwin and is waiting for their shipments to meet them there.

42: TAFE SA

It looks like the team has a pretty long ways to go to finish the car.

45: Lodz

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Eagle Two to Australia on July 17th.

No news since the last shipment update on August 20th, although there was a team member wedding on the 2nd, featuring Eagle One.

49: Siam Tech

Status: Shipped.

Siam Tech shipped Nikola on September 6th.

75: UNSW Sunswift

Status: Unveiling scheduled. 

The unveiling was scheduled for today (the 14th), but has been pushed back to the 22nd due to an accident while testing. The left front suspension failed during a high-speed brake test with car fully loaded with 4 occupants, causing it to skid for quite some distance on its belly. Fortunately it sounds like damage to the car is reparable, and no one was injured.

94: University of Minnesota

Status: Car shipped, some race crew in Melbourne.

The team shipped Eos II out to Australia over the last weekend in July, and the first team members have arrived in Australia.

95: Apollo

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Apollo VIII to Adelaide on August 23rd.

No news since then.

Adventure Class

52: Illini Solar Car

Status: Shipped. The team shipped Argo out to Australia at the start of August.

No news since then.

53: Mississippi Choctaw High School

No news this week.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

WSC 2017 Challenger Summary (Part 2)

Our first post on the 2017 Challenger class was a broad overview, but we didn't talk too much about specific cars, or what our favorites are. So, who do we here at MostDece think are the teams to watch in 2017?

First, lets quickly discuss the array. The 2017 regs allow for 4sqm of silicon, or 2.64sqm of multi-junction GaAs cells. We've seen teams quote around 24% for Si this year, and 35% for GaAs, which works out to 960W and 924W, respectively - not a huge difference! I think that cars with the smaller GaAs array should be able to be designed in a more aerodynamic manner to more than make up for this small power deficit... And when you account for the fact that GaAs arrays don't suffer as much efficiency losses in higher temperatures, and cooling the arrays with water has been banned this year***, I think a GaAs array should have been a clear choice this year! But it seems that few teams came to this conclusion - or perhaps only a few could afford it. Only Nuon, Punch, and Michigan switched from silicon in 2015 to multi-junction in 2017. See this post from Scientific Gems for some more details and graphs on this topic.

*** Reg 3.18.3 states "Spraying of water from external sources is no longer allowed" (Emphasis mine). So I think if you wanted to put a water tank in the solar car, and carry all the water that you are going to use for spraying for the entire race, all the way from Darwin to Adelaide, maybe you would be allowed to do that - as it's no longer water from an external source. But if WSC allows a team to do this, they'd better be extra careful to make sure the team can't stealthily refill it along the way.


Top Picks

The array discussion out of the way, let's discuss who our favorite cars and teams are this year. Looking over the field, I think there's a reasonable chance that the top five finishers from last year will be our top five again - they're all coming back with great cars.

Nuon

Nuon burst onto the solar car racing scene in 2001, winning their first WSC - and the next three in a row, as well. After 2nd-place finishes to Tokai in 2009 and 2011, they won again in both 2013 and 2015. They're the champs, what else can we say?

Well, a lot, actually. This year, Nuon is one of the few teams building a car with a multi-junction array, and it's a diminutive catamaran. And despite the new rules with a much larger bounding box than array size, most teams this year have stuck to a rectangular array (or close to it). Not Nuon - Nuna9 has an array with dramatically curved sides that conform to the sides of the wheel fairings, and the array doesn't extend forward or aft of the wheel fairings at all. The leading edge of one wheel fairing blends smoothly across the leading edge of the array and into the other wheel fairing - and the same can be seen on the rear of the car. They've distilled the asymmetric catamaran into it's simplest form, devoid of any and all unnecessary protrusions.

Photo: Jorrit Lousberg
(image source)
Photo: Hans Peter van Velthoven
(crop of this photo)

As aesthetically pleasing as this is, it serves a purpose. By eliminating the front overhang and the rear "winglets" that we usually see extending laterally from the fairings, Nuon has eliminated a lot of junctions on the car - junctions where flow velocity can slow, and energy-robbing vortices can form. It's clear that Nuon has put a lot of careful thought into their car this year, and they're going to be a tough team to beat.

Punch

Despite having what may have been the best car at the last WSC, Punch finished in 5th place in 2015. They simply didn't have their race operations perfected as much Nuon, Twente, Tokai, and Michigan; a few small breakdowns and a race conduct penalty (against their media crew) put them an hour and 25 minutes back from the winner. Talking with the team after the race, I think the team understood what their shortcomings were, and I hope they've worked on correcting that for 2017.

(image source)
(image source)

With respect to the car itself, Punch Two looks great. It's a very small car - overall, very similar to Nuna9 in dimensions and proportions. Punch has eliminated the front overhang and blended the front edges of the array into the wheel fairings in a manner similar to Nuon, although they've kept a rear overhang and the array "winglets" protruding sideways as the wheel fairings narrow to the rear. The multi-junction array shows that they're thinking out of the box rather than just building what they have before, and that they have deep pockets/resources to tap. I expect Punch Two to place very well in October.

Michigan

Michigan has been coming to WSC since 1990, finishing in 3rd place five time - but never higher. Most recently, Aurum finished in 4th place in 2015, slipping behind Tokai on the last day. This year, Michigan has made some bold moves - not only are they one of the few teams taking the multi-junction array option, they're also one of the few that didn't construct an asymmetric catamaran. Instead, they've built a long, narrow bullet car - or "monohull".

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(Photo: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering)

Novum is long, low, and sleek; it's right up against the 5m length limit. The track width appears to be as wide as is practical for a car that is only 1m wide overall, and the rounded nose looks like it will do quite well in crosswinds. Looking at the design, I really don't have any stability alarm bells going off in my head. Similarly to Nuon, this design eliminates a pair of long array-fairing junctions on the car, although in this case they've eliminated tunnel rather than the junctions on the sides of the car.

Any time the rules change, the chance is ripe for someone to see something that everyone else missed, and gain an advantage from it. I don't think Michigan would have made such a radical change for change's sake; they must think there's an advantage to this over a catamaran. Eyeing the rest of the field, Michigan might have a good shot at breaking their 3rd-place WSC curse with Novum.

Tokai

Tokai won WSC back-to-back in 2009 and 2011, then placed 2nd in 2015 and 3rd in 2015. For 2017, they're taking a similar strategy to Michigan: a monohull.

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Unlike Novum, the 2017 Tokai Challenger has a silicon array. It's a little wider than Novum at 1.2m wide, but it may have similar frontal area: Tokai's car has a very narrow track width (0.6m), and the bottom of the car is noticeably narrower than the top. It also has a quite pointy nose (and I wonder what sort of drama this is going to cause around reg 2.7.4).


What I said about Michigan goes for Tokai as well: Tokai is a smart team, and I don't think they would make such a radical departure from the now-near-ubiquitous catamaran if they didn't think there was an advantage. Tokai is certainly a team to watch this year, and may be a contender for the victory.

Twente

Since first attending WSC in 2005, Twente has consistently finished in the top ten. In their early years, they finished 9th in 2005, 6th in 2007, and 8th in 2009 (managing to complete the race after a nasty crash!). Over the past three WSC events, they've been steadily marching upward: they finished 5th in 2011, then 3rd in 2013, and finally a nail-bitingly-close 2nd-place finishing 2015; only 8 minutes and 20 seconds behind Nuon.

This year, they're bringing a long, narrow, silicon array catamaran named Red Shift.

Red Shift
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I've gotta say, I'm... not super impressed. It's not that I don't like the car - it build quality looks great and I'm sure it'll do well at WSC, but I expect more of Twente. The team has always built unique cars. From their tilting array cars in 2007 and 2009, to The Red Engine in 2013 (still one of my favorite solar cars from the upright-seating era), Twente has always flaunted convention. Even 2015's Red One was fairly unique in a field of nearly identical catamarans - the 3-fairing layout and the short front, long back, driver forward proportions stood out from a largely-similar field. When I think of a team that consistently thinks outside the box, I think of Twente, and given the regs changes this year I had high expectations.

But Red Shift, uh...

...

...it looks like a 2/3 scale Nuna 8.

Knowing the rivalry between the two schools, I fully expect Dutch assassins to arrive at my house for saying that, but dang. Every time I look at Red Shift, I just see a smaller Nuna 8. I can't unsee it. Seriously, here's a photo of Nuna 8 from nearly the same angle:

Nuna 8 at WSC 2015. Photo by MostDece

The other four top finishers from 2015 have all made significant and divergent changes to their designs, but Twente hasn't even taken advantage of the larger bounding box to break out of the (nearly) rectangular array planform.

I expect that Twente will do well; I'd be shocked if Red Shift is not a top-ten finisher, and I think it has a better-than-most chance of finishing in the top five. But given how the rules changed this year, I'll be really surprised if the winning formula is "2015-but-smaller". Of these five cars, it's the only one that I would be genuinely surprised to see crossing the finish line first.

Rising to the Challenge

In 2015, the rules hadn't changed too much from the previous WSC and I was pretty certain with my predictions for the Challenger class. I correctly called four out of the top five, the one I called but missed came in 6th, and my sole "dark horse" pick - a rookie - came in 7th. Not bad, right? But with the rule changes this year, there's potentially a lot more uncertainty. Particularly, if the monohull cars have stability issues, we could see some shakeups near the top. Here are the other teams that I think we should keep an eye on:

WSU

Western Sydney University is a relatively new team - their first WSC was only in 2013, and like most rookie teams they failed to finish the race the first time around. But they've aggressively built their program, and the team finished an impressive 10th at their second WSC. Depending on how you look at it, I think that they were the team that improved the most since 2013, and their 2017 car appears to be another large step up.

(image source, Photo Credit: Sally Tsoutas)
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Unlimited 2.0 is a long, narrow, silicon array catamaran. WSU has pushed the wheelbase much shorter this year, resulting in shorter wheel fairings and less whetted area. The trailing edge of the car is one clean sweep from the wheel fairings to the array, mimicking the aft end of Nuon's entry - no protruding array winglets here! Super smooth. It's clear the team has put a ton of effort into the car, and they've taken advantage of the new regs to optimize the aerodynamics of a silicon catamaran as much as possible.

Like we mentioned above, WSU finished 10th in 2015 - but three of the strong teams that finished ahead won't be challenging them this year. EAFIT-EPM and MegaLux aren't attending WSC in 2017, and Team Arrow has shifted to the Cruiser class. Soooo... can WSU do better than 7th? They'll need to beat Stanford to do so. Can they break into the top five??? I think it's plausible, especially if any of the monohulls turns out to have stability problems out on the Stuart Highway.

Stanford

After a nasty wreck knocked them out of the 2007 event, Stanford finished 10th in 2009 and 11th in 2011, then rallied to a 4th place finish in 2013. Then the team slipped to 6th in 2015 - not because the team got worse, but because they didn't get as much better as other teams did. 2015 was a great year with a a ton of quality teams and stiff competition; in particular both Punch and Michigan improved dramatically from 2013 to 2015, and passed Stanford in the process.

But Stanford is still a strong team, and has had a particularly good strategy team over the past two races. In this post about the 2015 race from Scientific Gems, note how level Stanford's line is - they knew what speed they they could drive from day 1, and they stuck to the plan even when they were basically neck-and-neck with MegaLux through Kulgera.

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This year, Sundae abandons the rectangular array entirely. The front overhangs the wheels a bit, but at the rear the array becomes dramatically narrower, and it has a trailing edge treatment similar to Nuon and WSU. I expect that Stanford will run a good race again this year, but can they best their WSC 4th-place record and finish on the podium for the first time? They have a lot of tough competition to beat in order to achieve that goal.

NIT

I haven't seen many folks in the western solar car community paying attention to NIT this year, but I think this is a team to keep an eye on. NIT finished pretty far back in 16th in 2015... but they did so with a car designed for Suzuka! Their new car Horizon 17 is their first car that they've specifically designed for WSC, and they claim that it's the first one that they've done aerodynamic analysis on.

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Just like Nuon, NIT has also dramatically curved the sides of their array to conform to the wheel fairings, although the narrowness of the car and the larger area of the silicon array require it to have some array overhang on the front and rear. Still, the way that NIT has blended the overhangs into the body is incredibly clean. The only thing I'm not a fan of is the length of the wheel fairings; they seem overly long compared to other cars this year and result in a lot of extra surface area. Regardless, Horizon 17 is a huge step step up from 2015's Horizon Z, and I expect the team to do extremely well.

Wild Cards

These two teams are both teams that have shown in the past that they can run a good race, and are fielding pretty radical cars this year. In contrast to the teams above (that I'm fairly sure will do well), I'm not sure if these are going to perform well, or disastrously. Whatever happens, they're worth keeping an eye on.

Kogakuin

Kogakuin unveiled Wing back in late June, and it's... wild, unique, and bold. But risky.

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Conceptually, it's similar to Michigan and Tokai - a long, narrow, low monohull, and it's a silicon array car like Tokai. But rather than integrate the array into the body, Kogakuin has chose to elevate the array over the driver as a separate unit. It looks neat, but I'm really scratching my head about the aerodynamics. I think the separate solar array results in a very poor array-area-to-surface-area ratio, which is a pretty basic rule of thumb for guesstimating how a solar car design will perform. On the other hand, if you can maintain laminar flow, surface area doesn't matter as much... I'm also concerned about crosswind performance with that weird flowing wing shape, as well as how the wing will hold to 3022km of vibration across the outback. Kogakuin is doing all sorts of other weird stuff under the hood, from the high trail multi-link front suspension to the mono-shock, rigid tube axle, hydraulically steered, multi-link rear suspension.

It's all just completely wild. There's not a single conventional thing about this car. Ordinarily I'd dismiss this as some sort of engineers-gone-wild monstrosity or an art project masquerading as a car, but... I can't help but wonder. Last year's Cruiser was wicked fast. The fit & finish on Wing appears exemplary. They've been doing a ton of testing, and the team seems to have a TON of Bridgestone support and sponsorship. I don't think they built a car that looks like this for whimsical reasons; I think they are very seriously gunning for the overall victory, but I really have no idea what their chances are.

NWU

The team from North West University in South Africa ran a solid race in 2015, finishing 11th. This year, the car they're entering is kind of a blast from the past: a narrow driver pod with outrigger wheels, and a tilting array. It's a really large car, too. Due to the fact that the array is short and wide, but placed entirely aft of the driver compartment, NWU's car is 4.98m x 2.05m. It's right up against the 5m length limit, and the only 2017 car I'm aware of that is wider than the old 1.8m limit from the previous decade of regulations.

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This style of car largely fell out of favor in solar car racing's infancy; the extra power from the tilting array just didn't make up for the aerodynamic shortcomings. But maaaaybe it makes sense again with a smaller array? Due to the small 4sqm array regs this year, NWU's tilting array is much more tightly integrated with the driver pod. It's able to be located lower and entirely aft of the driver, rather than elevated on support pylons and extending over the driver's head as seen with the huge tilting arrays on the '87 Ford/Aurora entry, the '87 Spirit of Biel, the '93 Solar Kiwi, etc... And Twente drove tilting-array cars to reasonably successful finishes in 2007 and 2009.

I think NWU has a good shot of breaking into the top ten this year, but a top five finish is unlikely.

Wrap Up

Alright, I've typed a whole lot but it's time for me to finish this post up. Here's my prediction:

I think Nuon, Punch, and Michigan are the most likely top three. The teams that chose multi-junction arrays are on to something; they're getting nearly the same power (or perhaps more, depending on heat!) out of a smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic car. That's a winning formula. Nuon is obviously the favorite for 1st, but I'm also going to guess Michigan will not finish 2nd. Assuming all three cars run a clean race, I expect Michigan to be clearly ahead or clearly behind Nuon and Punch; I'll be surprised if the performance of such wildly divergent designs ends up close enough that Michigan places between two very similar catamarans.

Tokai and Twente are good bets for 4th or 5th, but may face tough competition from WSU, Stanford, and NIT. Kogakuin is so weird that I don't have a good instinct for how they'll do, but they could be very, very fast.

I also expect JU to do quite well - I almost placed them up under the heading of "Rising to the Challenge", but they just didn't quite make the cut for a top-five contender in my mind. I think they're a good bet for a top ten finish though! NWU, Blue Sky and ITU are other teams that I think have a good chance of making the top ten.

Some final bet-hedging: If the monohull designs are a lot better than I think, expect Michigan and Tokai (and perhaps Kogakuin?) to place very highly - possibly edging Nuon further back than they've ever finished. On the other hand, if the monohull designs aren't as good (or have stability issues/accidents on the road), they'll end up further back and will give teams like WSU, Stanford, and NIT the opportunity to place much better than in 2015.

Of course, it's a race, and anything can happen - we'll just have to wait and see.