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American Solar Challenge Racers Head For Canada 144

coondoggie writes "Solar race cars this week began their nine-day, 2,400 mile chase from Dallas to Calgary, Alberta using only the sun for fuel. The 24 teams in the American Solar Challenge race are mainly US college teams including entries from MIT, Ohio State and Northwestern. The University of Michigan's Continuum car is the defending champ, having won the Challenge in Australia last year. The University of Michigan has won four out of the eight North American Solar Challenges it has entered with its team of more than 100 engineering students, who have vowed to defend their title this year."
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American Solar Challenge Racers Head For Canada

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:09PM (#24220537)

    Here are some photos I shot of the teams preparing their cars the day before the rally started in Plano, Texas.

    North American Solar Challenge 2008 prep day photos []

    • re the first photo, "Close up of one of the panels on the Durham University Solar Car. The coating on this particular panel looked like it had shattered, giving it a pattern of cracks similar to broken glass."

      fyi, it is broken glass.

      cool pictures.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      My wife and I wandered around as well and our pictures look almost exactly like yours.

      I wondered why they said "Dallas to Canada" when it was obviously starting in Plano, which, while near Dallas, is not, in fact, Dallas.

      The kids were all very eager and informative. Good luck to them that's still in the race.
  • by grimsnaggle ( 1320777 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:09PM (#24220541)
    Michigan did not win the 2007 World Solar Challenge. Team Nuon did so with their Nuna4.

    Michigan won the 2005 American Solar Challenge race by about ten minutes over Minnesota.

    My team [] won the 2005 American Solar Challenge for the stock class, edging out Berkeley by 26 minutes.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:18PM (#24220657)

      I wouldn't get all huffy about it, Michigan won't win anyway, Appalachian State has an entry...

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @09:36PM (#24222561) Journal

        When I'm not at home in Chicago, I'm at my place in Rolla, MO, where I've seen the talented youngsters from Missouri U of Sci & Tech working on their solar vehicle. It's been nearly a decade since I first saw their sun car, and maybe, finally, this country of 300 million hunks of iron junk on wheels is ready to think about other ways of getting to Wal-mart to do their shopping besides relying on fossil fuels.

        What do you think, has $4.59/gal gasoline changed any minds yet? My family has downsized to a '95 Mazda that spends most of the time in the garage, but then we live in downtown Chicago where you can walk a few blocks from any point in town and pick up a bus or train in about 5 minutes. Or, and this is what we've chosen, we can hop on our bikes and give the big fungoo to the oil companies (at least when it comes to transportation). Living just blocks from campus or working from home makes it a lot easier, but I'm thinking there are other people making similar decisions to ours. One thing I've learned is that I'm not all that exceptional, so if I can get by without visiting a gas pump every week there are other people doing the same.

        Getting back to the solar car race, I just hope the media makes the story more than just an end-of-the-newscast cute item. We need to learn there's other ways to do things, and it feels so good when I cruise by the gas stations on my bike. I like to see the sad faces of the doofuses in their '07 Escalades or Tundras or whatever they're calling those stupid locomotives-on-rubber these days, as they watch the numbers fly by on the gas pumps. Fuck 'em for being stupid, I say. Plus, it makes them a little less cocky and agressive when it comes to sharing the street with my infinite-miles-per-gallon velocipede. Maybe at some point I'll start to have a little human sympathy and understanding for them. But not yet, not yet.

    • by Hal-9001 ( 43188 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @07:39PM (#24221521) Homepage Journal

      Ugh...out of the 3 submissions regarding the NASC, the least-accurate and least-timely one is the one that gets promoted to the front page. Sasha Zbrozek, the team lead for Stanford's next solar car, submitted a much better write-up [] a few days ago when the NASC started.

    • I don't know what they're using as criteria for 'entered', but the one race I was in, they had a wheel failure in qualifying, and didn't even make the starting line.

      Of course, whoever's dumb idea it was to finish in Golden, CO should've been shot -- uphill climb, after 2 days of cloudy weather ... with parts of the race route on the Denver beltway ... we were told to collect the cars w/ trailers, as there was too much rubber necking as rush-hour started.

      (of course, they also thought it was a good idea to gi

      • by Gertlex ( 722812 )

        2005, not 1995... UM won the Sunrayce in 91 and 93, iirc. 95 and 03 were our problem cars.

    • by cbc1920 ( 730236 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @10:59PM (#24223223)

      Michigan was poised to win the 2007 World Solar Challenge until they crashed into their lead support vehicle. Their lead had to break hard after being cut off by STANFORD's support vehicle, which was panicking after they lost their solar car in the heavy Darwin (Australia) traffic. Next time your team enters an international event, please practice driving your race caravan in traffic.

      Congratulations on winning the 2005 stock race on a car largely based on Michigan's (embarrassing) 2003 car- one of your lead mechanical designers was a UM veteran.

      Sorry about the flame- I am an ex-UM member and am still a little bitter.

      • See it as you wish. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by grimsnaggle ( 1320777 ) on Thursday July 17, 2008 @03:01AM (#24224703)

        Sorry about the flame- I am an ex-UM member and am still a little bitter.

        I can see that.

        Solar car is about building experience and becoming better at what you do. You can't fault a guy for learning from his mistakes and doing things better the second time around. What is an education for?

        UM has lost focus of the spirit of the event. This is a race, but it's not a race to a finish line. It's a race to learn as much as you can in the limited time you have as an undergraduate in a club activity.

        Michigan wants so badly to win that they realize needlessly risky designs to pursue fleetingly small perceived advantages. Gaming the race framework and then blaming the outcome of borderline engineering on others is bad form and is representative of the poor sportsmanship that has given the team such a bad reputation in the solar car racing community.

        Now, that is not to say that everyone on the UM team is a bad person. There are many fine engineers and upstanding people on the UM team, but their good work, high spirits, passion for the sport, and good conduct are easily eclipsed by the few members of the UM team that don't hold those values as highly.

        I would like to point out that the race officials concluded that Stanford had no culpability in Michigan's accident. Observers from both teams provided the details to reach that final decision.

        Maybe next time UM shouldn't use brakes designed for a bicycle on a solar car.

        • by Hal-9001 ( 43188 )

          UM has lost focus of the spirit of the event. This is a race, but it's not a race to a finish line. It's a race to learn as much as you can in the limited time you have as an undergraduate in a club activity.

          Michigan wants so badly to win that they realize needlessly risky designs to pursue fleetingly small perceived advantages. Gaming the race framework and then blaming the outcome of borderline engineering on others is bad form and is representative of the poor sportsmanship that has given the team such a

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by gbdub ( 1327673 )

            Thanks Hal, that's about right (though to be fair, Michigan probably has more logistical support than Nuon these days, although Nuon still had the advantage of a huge cash sponsorship early in the project that allowed them to snap up the world's best solar cells before Michigan had any cash for a down payment - the teams would have likely been well matched without Michigan's accident).

            Regarding the crash, Stanford was indeed ruled not legally culpable - but whether they were at *fault* or not, their support

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cbc1920 ( 730236 )

          U of M had by far the most innovative car in WSC. Yes, they spent the $$ to get a good array, but only 1/4 as much as the winners from the Netherlands. The UM solar concentrator system was, IMO the biggest new thing to solar car racing since MIT's '95 "short car" aero design. And I'm not counting industry improvements like solar cells or batteries.

          If you want to harp on teams that spend money and don't improve much, just look at the top 5 teams in that race- similar cars with fancy arrays.

          This, for those of

      • Don't be so bitter. We can't win them all. I consider building the body of the Maize & Blue (winner of '93 race) and doing the wind tunnel testing the highlight of my engineering days at Michigan. And I am ecstatic that Michigan has kept up with the early solar car race successes. Go BLUE!!!
  • Canada? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:09PM (#24220543)

    They're having a solar race... in Canada?

    • They're having a solar race... in Canada?

      They just need to wait on the side of the road for another month before they get some sunshine again and can finish the race.

      • Re:Canada? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tool Man ( 9826 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:19PM (#24220667)

        Yeesh. Everyone's racing in the same direction, silly wabbit. Besides, it's summer here now, so there's lots of sunlight to be had.

        A local (Winnipeg) community college is participating too, here's their race blog: []

        • "Besides, it's summer here now..."
          Summer? Canada? Really?
          • by Tool Man ( 9826 )

            Yup, even here. Of course, when you think we're cold, we are thinking the same thing about farther North in our own country.

            Churchill is in my own province, and they have *polar bears*, so no, Winnipeg's not cold. Of course, I say this because I haven't been there yet, and the weather report usually says it's only a few degrees colder most of the time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually in Canada, in the summer, there is more sunshine than U.S. (the days are longer than the nights). Today, there was 16 hours of sunshine in Calgary. In Dallas, there were 14 hours, 4 minutes.
    • Yeah, and it's dangerous up there. []

    • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

      I know you said this in jest, but it brings up a valid problem... A race such as this could come down to random luck with regards to the weather. I know cross country racing is so much more attention grabbing, but a 2400 mile circuit on a race track would be far more fair. Say one car is slightly behind the leader, approaching the finish, and both are running on battery reserves under cloud cover after traveling the whole race in virtually identical conditions. A short burst of sunshine on the trailing

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by shlashdot ( 689477 )
        Um, that's why the race is *2400 Miles* long. You don't win due to a random 30 second event. By your logic they should set up a dynamometer and a giant light bulb...
        • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

          That's just it, the distance is moot. The race could be 2 miles or 200000 miles. If two cars are mostly evenly matched, which at least SOME of the cars in this race will be (although probably not the leaders), then their results will come down to the last (of many) random 30 second event. And the problems will cascade. Imagine the trip is mostly sunny, but with a few minutes of cloud cover that hits the leader on the first day. When the effects of that lost bit of power hit them, they could fall back i

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Eternauta3k ( 680157 )
            You could say the race is affected by a number of dice rolls which can either harm or benefit each car. The longer the race, the more rolls and the steeper the bell curve (actually, binomial distribution), thus getting any significant benefit or harm becomes less likely
            • by Sparr0 ( 451780 )

              Note that cars in close proximity tend to roll the same on their dice, and one bad roll can put you in a worse "bracket" for the entire race, or one good roll in a better.

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Eoika ( 1123009 )
              So they're rolling for initiative?
          • Re:Canada? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by flewp ( 458359 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @09:38PM (#24222593)
            So then the team is the one who is best prepared for these changing conditions. Seems kind of fair to me. Having a longer race will expose the teams to greater variety in conditions, and this can only be a good thing. You're not going to have static, ideal conditions in the real world - and presumably, these cars/this race is being held to promote and advance tech that could make it to the consumers.
    • by Cordath ( 581672 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:59PM (#24221107)
      Calgary is one of the sunniest cities in North America in terms of amount of sunshine per year. Southern Alberta is, in large part, a semi-arid region with very low humidity, so the Sun really packs a wallop here due to very low atmospheric extinction. At this time of year the days are also longer the further North you go. Those cars will probably make better time once they cross into Canada than they will in most parts of the U.S..

      However, Alberta isn't really a solar energy hot-spot. Wind power is where it's at. Alberta produces more wind power than any other province in Canada. Whichever racers have the foresight to pack a sail will probably make the best time on the last leg of their journey.
      • wind (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zogger ( 617870 )

        That would actually be interesting if they ever encountered tail winds and could adjust the angle of one of the panels to act as a sail, or even the canopy. Would be a nice "sleeper" bit of tech to surprise the opposition.

      • by umStefa ( 583709 )
        I'm not sure the rules in a solar race allow for wind sails, but even if they did the weight penalty of carry the sail all the way from Texas combined with the fact that the prevailing winds across the Canadian praries from Winnipeg to Calary are westerly, and the the cars are going the wrong way.
      • Actually I remember a graph from the race last year (or the year before?) showing that the speed in Alberta was about half what it was in Arizona. Southern alberta might have more hours of sunlight because of the latitude, but the sun is at more of an angle, so the light is dimmer.

    • Actually, there will be more minutes of sunlight in a day the further north you go. Of course, the weather in Alberta hasn't exactly been great this week. Tornado near Vulcan yesterday, and lots of storms all week.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      They're having a solar race... in Canada?

      Between having to stay in igloos, endless darkness and putting on snow chains, it is going to be tough ;)

    • by conlaw ( 983784 )
      Yes, and let's hope none of them need to call home []
    • In summer we have lots of places that will get 24 hrs of sunlight (or at least twilight). They're lucky they're not doing it in winter though, they would never make it, heh.
    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      We get sun rays too, you know.

      Well, some of the time.

      Well, at least half the time.

      It's called "day time".

    • Well, considering that the race is in the summer, and in the summer it gets light well before 6AM and doesn't get dark until after 10PM a solar race is very appropriate.

      By the way, southern Saskatchewan--in Canada and within a few hours driving distance from Calgary--gets the MOST sunlight of anywhere on the continent (in the summer in the far north is is continuously daylight for many days, but the light isn't as bright/intense as it is in the southern Prairies).

  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:18PM (#24220639)

    In 2001 the Nuna of the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands, participating for the first time, was the fastest.

    In 2003 the Nuna 2, the successor to the winner of 2001 won again, with an average speed of 97 km/h (60 mph).

    In 2005 the Nuna team scored a hat-trick with their third victory in a row; their Nuna 3 won with a record average speed of 102.75 km/h (63.85 mph). Aurora finished in second place followed by the University of Michigan in third.

    In 2007 the Dutch Nuon Solar team scored their fourth successive victory with Nuna4 in the challenge class averaging 90.07 km/h (55.97 mph) under the new rules, while the Ashiya team with their car Tiga won the race in the adventure class under the old rules with an average speed of 93.53 km/h (58.12 mph).

    But it makes sense, with the average Dutch weather our solar tech has to be really good!

    • Some more fun info for those interested:

      The peak speed for the Nuna in 2007 was 142 km/h.

      Upon finishing the race, the Belgian Umicore team and the Australian Aurora team were trailing the Nuna by 120 and 170 km respectively.

      Two solar cars from the United States crashed, including the University of Michigan's much-hyped and extremely well-funded Continuum. After what the Stanford solar team described on its blog as a "hectic" race start, with solar cars launched into the race with only a minute betw
  • by BigJClark ( 1226554 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:19PM (#24220663)

    Time to drive from Dallas to Calgary - 2 days
    Time to negotiate border crossing - 7 days
  • I see... (Score:5, Funny)

    by tttonyyy ( 726776 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:20PM (#24220677) Homepage Journal

    more than 100 engineering students

    One to turn it on, the rest to shine flashlights on it?

  • As long as the stay away from Quebec, this might work out nicely. If they do, they risk being stalled in the middle of nowhere due to the lack of sun or simply wreck their fragile cars on our beautiful roads.

    In June, we had 23 days of rain here. I could hardly power my LED garden lamps more than 15 minutes after sun set.

    Environment Canada has forecast a dry and warm summer. Considering that for the month of June, and I quote the EC experts, "we've never seen that much rain recorded history", and that th
  • I think this kind of competition is just great, what with the innovation which is always spawned by things of this nature.

    However, I can't help but notice that although I feel pride for the competitors and feel happy that progress in this direction is taking place, the public interest seems lacking. And I don't just mean Joe Shmoe is unamused: at the time of this posting the article has been front page slashdot for 5 minutes with 1 comment.

    Is it because these vehicles, while being great proofs of concept, do point out the current weakness of real-time solar power? Are the cars just too lightly built and cheesy looking?

    Perhaps a way to capture more popular attention (and thus imagination) might be to have a Solar "Charged" race. This would catch more interest I think.

    Stipulate that the vehicles must charge their batteries using solar power and utilize only the power they have derived from the sun. This would allow high-performance electric cars to be showcased doing their sports-car killing speed runs whilst whining by like a flying saucer.

    If there is one thing the scientists and geeks need to evolve, it's a better sense of PR.

    If you need evidence that the nerdy are bad with PR just look at some of the scary, weird names used for our creations:

    * Linux - sounds like an evil species of aliens - 'run! the Linux are attacking!'

    * The Gimp - do I need to say more?

    * Ubuntu - beautiful in translation, terrible as a mnemonic for the target 'lay' audience - 'ooo-but what?'

    • I'm not sure that solar racing really showcases the right kinds of innovation. The winners tend to be those with the most efficient (and expensive) PV technology. Having the PV labs focus so much effort on expensive PV does not really help deployment of PV as a practical real world solution.

      The most important consideration in making PV practical is to reduce $perW. Who cares about efficiency as a goal of itself? If someone was to make 10% efficient roofing tiles at low $perW then you could make a whole roof

      • I would say thats not quite enough. Cheap, efficient solar panels are available, they just don't last too long. It costs less over a year but much, much more over the span of 20 years or more. Furthermore, the only part of a solar panel's life that matters here on earth is the tim until output drops to 50%. I think producers should be concentrating on $/Watt/High output part of total product lifespan.
      • I think a better way to get solar powered racing to fruition would first need a governing body like the FIA does for F1 racing. Next on the PV tech. There needs to be standardized restrictions. This way the power source is the same for each car making racing fair and interesting. The reason pro racing is interesting is because the rules make sure the competition is very close and the drivers and teams are what make the wins. The human element is whats important in any sport. Imposing PV cell restriction
    • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:44PM (#24220957) Homepage Journal
      You have a great point. 1000's will show up to watch regular cars drive around in a circle. Real innovation somehow doesn't draw such a crowd. I think if we got enough hot chicks in racing T's, set up some bar-be-que and encouraged the liberal administration of fermented beverages they could probably gather an audience.

      On another note, I have an idea as to why electric cars (even ridiculously fast ones like the tesla) don't get the "hotness" factor that other race cars get - they don't make loud noise. I think the visceral reaction to a loud muffler is what draws the "speed" emotion from folks. (Incidentally it also explains why every honda civic down the block has a muffler the size of a cantelope).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Among true sports car enthusiasts the Tesla Roadster is a wonderful peice of tech, that performs on a level on par with some super cars, for about 2 hours. 5 hours to recharge, and 250 mile range if your ginger on the accelerator means you can't go out and play all day long. Trust me, the performance characteristics of electric vehicles are very cool, they're just not ready for prime time. More on topic, though, yes, solar charged would be much better, allowing much faster cars. And yeah, get the chicks
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Idiomatick ( 976696 )

          Close, it charges in 3.5hrs and lasts around 4.5. You might have been thinking of an older version.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hal-9001 ( 43188 )

      Stipulate that the vehicles must charge their batteries using solar power and utilize only the power they have derived from the sun. This would allow high-performance electric cars to be showcased doing their sports-car killing speed runs whilst whining by like a flying saucer.

      This is essentially the existing rule in the North American Solar Challenge (and I'm pretty sure in the other solar challenges, like the upcoming South African Solar Challenge and the 2009 World Solar Challenge), and the operating pri

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Is it because these vehicles, while being great proofs of concept, do point out the current weakness of real-time solar power? Are the cars just too lightly built and cheesy looking?

      Yes. The internal combustion engine generates a lot of power. Googling around I read about 15kW sustained power (to move an "average" US car at 50 MPH). That would be 45 to 100 square meters of solar cell (15% to 33% efficiency solar cells) to get equivalent power from solar. So no matter what, you're speaking of lower power production than an internal combustion engine. I don't see that the general public is going to be interested in that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by megaditto ( 982598 )

        They might be by the time gas hits $12/gal

      • by objekt ( 232270 )

        A smaller solar array could charge the batteries as the car sits in the sun all day while I'm at work, and would provide enough power to drive me home. This is assuming I can't plug in while I'm at work.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Yea, or you could plug in and charge off huge solar cells suspended above the parking lot. For this race though, you have to rely on what's on the vehicle and there appears to be little opportunity to charge up batteries.
    • It might also be related to the amount of PR per team and their results. If a team crashes and burns (not literally I hope) then they might seem less inclined to flout their performance. However, the Dutch team from the TU Delft (the Nuna, that won the last 4 WSC in Australia) have had such success and press coverage here in Holland that that too is declining because now it's almost become expected for them to win. I'm sorry if that sounds arrogant, but that is how our uni sees the matter.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 )

      And I don't just mean Joe Shmoe is unamused: at the time of this posting the article has been front page slashdot for 5 minutes with 1 comment.

      Obviously that's because everyone was reading TFA.

  • WMU! (Score:3, Funny)

    by smidget2k4 ( 847334 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:35PM (#24220859)
    Go Western Michigan! Oh... wait... our car broke already...

    Go someone else!
    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I was part of the SAE Aero challenge in '99, our team's plane suffered damage during shipping and the WMU guys were the only ones nice enough to even offer help. WMU has my vote, even with a broken car!
  • I've always wanted to see a solar powered articulated lorry with battery intermediate systems. If you are going to accept that with solar panels as the only energy input the vehicle will never be ready to use at any time, you might as well build something big that can carry several tonnes of batteries and let you make a respectable length of journey before having to sit in the sun for a month to recharge.
  • Moose repellant (Score:3, Informative)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @06:56PM (#24221073) Homepage Journal

    Moose versus Solar Car would not harm the moose, but it would be unlikely the car would roll again. What sort of technology is being employed for the very serious issue of possible Moose Damage inflicted onto a solar car during a race?

  • Oklahoma US-75 (Score:3, Informative)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @07:01PM (#24221129)
    those truck drivers drive like hell on US-75 so be careful!!! stay in the right-hand lane whenever possible and the truckers will naturally pass in the left lane (the hammer lane)

    I live 60 miles from McAlester i may just drive to BigMac just to wave from the side of the road, i wish you all lots of good luck...
    • speaking of trucks. Dont they got a lot of space on the trailers to load up on solar cells! Would a trailer covered completely with pv cells be enough juice to run the truck? This could make the shipping system in the country cheaper in the long run?
      • by Hal-9001 ( 43188 )

        speaking of trucks. Dont they got a lot of space on the trailers to load up on solar cells! Would a trailer covered completely with pv cells be enough juice to run the truck? This could make the shipping system in the country cheaper in the long run?

        Assuming 100% coverage of the top surface of a trailer 102 inches wide and 28.5 feet long, the solar power available would be (2.6 m)*(8.7 m)*(1400 W/m^2) = 31.67 kW = 42.5 horsepower. This is even before considering the fact that the best solar cells are only

      • by objekt ( 232270 )

        The power wouldn't be sufficient to power the truck directly, but could help with charging the battery.

  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @07:34PM (#24221463) Homepage

    Wow, it was quite a long time ago, but latches I sell, normally used on carbon fiber race hoods I manufacture were donated to the OSU team to latch the top and bottom halves of the car together.

    If you are curious, it's these: []

    I just got a msg on the 26th that they were heading for their first race, but forgot to follow up on it... I see it's on it's way... but they may have had battery problems :(

    here's the OSU blog with up to date info: []

    • Wow! I saw those while I was out at the race and I swore I would track them down on the web to try and use on our team's solar car. I'm totally bowled over that I should chance over them on slashdot of all places. You wouldn't happen to want to donate a few of those to the Stanford team too, would you?
  • Whats crazy is that the 2nd place team as of this writing is Principia College, a school of only 500 students and no engineering dept or major. If they pull out a win it could go down as one of the biggest upsets in college sports(?) history. Of course they would need to beat a team that has millions in funding and its own satellite for weather data and a team of meteorologists.
  • I heard from an MIT friend this past weekend that they had to drop out because Michelin yanked support for using their tires at the last minute, and that was going to knock a few other schools out of the race as well.

    • by cbc1920 ( 730236 )

      For some reason, Michigan is still able to race on Michelin tires. The MIT team has, as far as I know, pulled out of solar racing completely.

  • Where the hell is Carnegie-Mellon []? How can you even think about having a car race like this without inviting them?!?! Or maybe they didn't invite them because they wanted the other teams to actually have a chance? ;-)
    • by Hal-9001 ( 43188 )

      I think you're somehow confusing the North American Solar Challenge (which Carnegie Mellon has never entered, to my knowledge) with the DARPA Grand Challenges [], where Carnegie Mellon has usually been the favorite and has traditionally done quite well (an upset by Stanford in 2005 notwithstanding). They are very different races requiring different expertise, although it would be interesting to apply machine learning techniques to solar racing strategy.

  • Lots of real-time info available on the solar car race here: []
  • by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:09PM (#24223299)

    i'm find it fascinating that the rules state that the cars are only allowed to run on global thermal energy - which includes wind, EXCEPT for any power stored in the batteries at the beginning of day one.

    if i read this correctly, the team with the most efficient batteries (and/or greatest battery capacity) has a tremendous advantage.

    an even more interesting race would start with all cars at a zero-charge, i think.

    • by aXi ( 6533 )

      How right you are, one full day's solar power should be enough to fully charge any discharged battery.

    • by Gertlex ( 722812 )

      Battery capacity is limited... so indeed efficiency of electrical systems is something to strive for.

      Efficiency of the solar cells, however, is not limited. The more money, the better you can get.

  • The last 4 true world challenges where won by a dutch team.The University of Michigan's Continuum car is not the current winner of the Australian championship. Please amend to quote.

  • using only the sun for fuel.

    Um, besides the Sun our only other fuel sources are nuclear and geothermal, both of which, for the most part, come from the star (or stars) that preceded the Sun.

    In case you're wanting to argue with me that gasoline, coal, natural gas, etc. are also other fuel sources: Fossil fuels come from plants who got their energy from the sun. Wind and water power are also powered by the Sun.

    </thinking with the anal retentive geek>

    • Fossil fuels come from plants who got their energy from the sun. Wind and water power are also powered by the Sun.

      Right on the spot. We need to understand that solar energy is not some kind of exotic energy for funny cars. It is pretty much the only energy we have, compared to which all other forms of energy (nuclear, geothermal) pale into insignificance.

      Using fossil fuels is actually a fairly inefficient form of using solar energy. It took millions of years to collect that energy and transform it into the fossil fuels as which it is now stored. Compare that to a few hours for recharging a battery from PV cells :-)

  • I thought both the start and the destination was somewhat ironic for this type (solar) race. It wasn't mentioned in the article why these two places were chosen, perhaps because they get a lot of sun.

    However when I think of Texas I think big oil, and when I think of Alberta I also think of big oil. They are probably two of the largest producers of oil (land based) in North America. Perhaps this figured into the decision as to the selection of the cities. Anyway I hope the irony was not lost on them.

  • Solar power-- and presumably, gravity. Unless they've found a way to cancel that out, to make the competition more fair. In which case, keep your silly solar powered car. I want a gravity canceller.

Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.