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American Solar Challenge Racers Head For Canada

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the however-there-is-no-sun-in-canada dept.

Transportation 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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M Go Blue (0, Flamebait)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220513)

Hail to the Victors!
Beat OSU!

Re:Blasphemy (-1, Troll)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220869)

Fuck michigan.

Re:Blasphemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24221041)

Spoken like a true Buckeye.

Re:M Go Blue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24221457)

That shouldn't be too hard, seeing as how Ohio State didn't make it into this year's solar challenge...

photos of prep day in Plano, Texas (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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 [flickr.com]

Re:photos of prep day in Plano, Texas (1)

shlashdot (689477) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221123)

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:photos of prep day in Plano, Texas (2, Informative)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221173)

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.

Re:photos of prep day in Plano, Texas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24222099)

Quite possibly because nobody knows where Plano is.

Re:photos of prep day in Plano, Texas (1)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222883)

I work in Plano, and did not even know it was going on, to bad this post was not *BEFORE* the race started. I would have loved to see these, as I make processing equipment for a solar cell manufacture.

Yet you didn't question why it said "Canada" (1)

objekt (232270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24226953)

Because of course nobody knows where Calgary, Alberta is ;-)

Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challenge (5, Informative)

grimsnaggle (1320777) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 [stanford.edu] won the 2005 American Solar Challenge for the stock class, edging out Berkeley by 26 minutes.

Re:Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challe (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220657)

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

Re:Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challe (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222561)

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.

Re:Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challe (3, Insightful)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221521)

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 [slashdot.org] a few days ago when the NASC started.

UMich didn't even make the start in 1995 (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223117)

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 give us an 'alternate route' for the trailers and support vehicles that on one day, included a ferry. And on another day, was more than 2x the race route, passing through 2 states the race didn't.)

Re:UMich didn't even make the start in 1995 (1)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223241)

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

Re:Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challe (4, Interesting)

cbc1920 (730236) | more than 6 years ago | (#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. (4, Interesting)

grimsnaggle (1320777) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:See it as you wish. (1)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24224945)

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.

On the flip side, there is a lot of pressure on any given Michigan solar car team to win the (N)ASC because of the team's reputation and tradition of winning, so they have to pursue winning designs over innovative designs. (Michigan tried an ambitious two-passenger, four-wheel-steering design in 2003, and it is quite telling that some consider that car to be an embarrassment.) Add to that the pressure of trying to catch the Dutch Nuon team which, as I understand it, has even more technological and logistical support than Michigan. My $0.02.

Re:Michigan didn't win the 2007 World Solar Challe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24223447)

But your team isn't in this race...

Oh right, you flipped your car. My condolences. /evil

Canada? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220543)

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

Re:Canada? (0)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220559)

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? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220641)

The weather here in Calgary has been uncharacteristically cloudy for this time of year. Lots of rain and thunderstorms.

Re:Canada? (1)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220731)

And very drastic changes during the day. Last week there was that massive downpour of hail that lasted about ten minutes, and then sun like an hour later. Calgary's weather is so fucked.

Re:Canada? (1)

Auntie Virus (772950) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223697)

The weather here in Calgary has been uncharacteristically cloudy for this time of year. Lots of rain and thunderstorms

You must be new here (in Calgary) We always get thunderstorms/hail starting right around Stoopede week. Have been for years.

Re:Canada? (4, Insightful)

Tool Man (9826) | more than 6 years ago | (#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: http://raycer.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

Re:Canada? (1)

Monkey_Genius (669908) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222067)

"Besides, it's summer here now..."
Summer? Canada? Really?

Re:Canada? (1)

Tool Man (9826) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223109)

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:Canada? (3, Informative)

passthesalt (1261714) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222551)

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.

Re:Canada? (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220919)

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 car could, completely at random, give it the win, despite it being some small amount less efficient/fast than the other car.

Re:Canada? (3, Insightful)

shlashdot (689477) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220961)

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...

Re:Canada? (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221165)

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 into last place, and then be subject to future random events that affect the losers, not the leaders, despite having the best car.

Re:Canada? (2, Insightful)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221359)

IANAStatiscian
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

Re:Canada? (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221493)

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:Canada? (4, Insightful)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Well, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24221007)

You can only drive a solar car at midnight if you're above the arctic circle! (By definition, there is no sunset above the arctic circle on midsummer's eve.) A midwinter solar race in Canada might be a problem... but not a midsummer race. A midwinter race in Australia, where everything is backwards, would be perfectly feasible.

Re:Canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24221093)

eh... like we're perfecting a frost2electicity panel eh.

Then we're using the electricity to run chillers to cool down our beer.

Why not? The sun's great up here. (5, Informative)

Cordath (581672) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (3, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222847)

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.

Re:wind (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#24226341)

And the pilot will be called Bond... James Bond.

Re:Canada? (1)

codemachine (245871) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221117)

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:Canada? (2, Funny)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221181)

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 ;)

Re:Canada? (1)

Spinalcold (955025) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222235)

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.

Re:Canada? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 6 years ago | (#24226353)

We get sun rays too, you know.

Well, some of the time.

Well, at least half the time.

It's called "day time".

World Solar Challenge (5, Informative)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 6 years ago | (#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!

Re:World Solar Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220789)

But with average traffic density and speed on Dutch roads, it doesn't really need to go that fast...

Re:World Solar Challenge (1)

mephistophyles (974697) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223875)

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 between each start, and caravans scrambling to catch up (each car has to be accompanied by a lead vehicle and chase vehicle), U-M's car collided with its own lead vehicle. U-M blames an abrupt stop by the Stanford team for the accident, but whatever the cause, Continuum suffered significant damage to its canopy and front solar modules.

Re:World Solar Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24225031)

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 between each start, and caravans scrambling to catch up (each car has to be accompanied by a lead vehicle and chase vehicle), U-M's car collided with its own lead vehicle. U-M blames an abrupt stop by the Stanford team for the accident, but whatever the cause, Continuum suffered significant damage to its canopy and front solar modules.

It is worth mentioning that the other solar car from the United States that crashed was Stanford's, and that their car was totaled (which is why they are not participating in the NASC this year). It is also worth mentioning that, after the first-day accident put Continuum temporarily in last place, they passed 25 cars on their way to arriving at the finish line 4th overall, and placing 7th in their class in elapsed time. (The discrepancy between arrival time and elapsed time is due to the fact that Continuum spent much less time charging its batteries at each of the race stops than the other cars.)

Breakdown of time (5, Funny)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220663)


Time to drive from Dallas to Calgary - 2 days
Time to negotiate border crossing - 7 days

Re:Breakdown of time (5, Funny)

Wandering Wombat (531833) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220687)

Not to mention confiscating your technological gadgets. You thought getting a laptop past the border was hard, let's try an entire vehicle that no-one's seen before that some young punks claim is a "magic car" that runs on sunshine and happiness.

Re:Breakdown of time (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220977)


I'd have to agree, as Alberta seems to be merging into "Little USA" mentality as of late.

I see... (4, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220677)

more than 100 engineering students

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

Solar power in Canada.... (1, Informative)

geogob (569250) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220683)

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 the dry and warm summer trend should continue on, I think it safe to assume we'll have a quite a (boat) ride with the weather this summer.

Unless they build little dams on the car roofs and install water turbines, these will have a hard time here. (understand, a slow - or stopped - time).

Re:Solar power in Canada.... (5, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220965)

Yeah, there aren't many paths from Texas to Alberta that don't go through Quebec. I hope they make it through okay!

Re:Solar power in Canada.... (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221799)

Water turbine-powered green vehicles... I think you're on to something!

Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (4, Insightful)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220715)

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?'

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220881)

It's not enough to show that some ridiculous looking, impractical car can run on solar power. We've known that for years. Make a car, that someone would actually want to use, being run on solar power and I'll be impressed.

The right kind of innovation? (1, Redundant)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220913)

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 out of them.

Research really needs to shift more towards $perW.

Re:The right kind of innovation? (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221535)

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.

Re:The right kind of innovation? (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221913)

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 restrictions that are modified every season to use newer tech will help upgrade the industry in a more steady pace. Forcing teams to buy and use the PV cells for that season will force some production companies to produce those cells developing cheaper methods of production etc. This is how to help push an industry using a racing program.

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (4, Interesting)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220957)

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:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (3, Funny)

kristopher_d (1024113) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221143)

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 and beer out there. Why not? It may be primal, but so is competition.

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (2, Informative)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24224351)

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

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24224065)

Its not just the noise - its the vibration. Hot women love getting in sports cars because, along with the excitement of speed and noise, and of course, the car being really expensive, therefore showing its owner obviously can provide for her and has a large penis (in their thinking); it also vibrates like a motherfucker. Of course, vibration isn't the main thing, otherwise all these hot women would be out on the streets with rabbits hanging out of their coochies. Put the vibration and the other factors I just listed together though, and its no wonder the sports cars get the hot chicks. The Tesla could only hope to achieve the same results, MAYBE, by putting stickers everywhere on the vehicle indicating its price. Even then, thats not guaranteed, because lots of guys have expensive non-sports cars and still don't get a fraction of the pussy that the sports car guys do.

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (2, Informative)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221713)

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 principle behind every competing solar car. No one powers their car directly from the solar array--they all use rechargable batteries and use the solar array to charge those batteries. They're fast, too--the current University of Michigan solar car has been tested at more than 80 mph on the racetrack, and the past two World Solar Challenge-winning cars from the Dutch Nuon team had comparable top speeds.

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223645)

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:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (2, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#24225369)

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

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (1)

mephistophyles (974697) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223891)

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:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24224707)

My new rules:

- Entries must have a sound trailer to compete in a db drag race [wikipedia.org] . Play engine noises at the beginning and end of race. Detach em just outside of start/finish event.
- Entries can drive at night, and also switch out batteries in a given dimension. Each switch costs them 1hr. Maybe we can get data to come up with standards, and finally show people how much cheaper it'd be than a nation of of hydrogen or propane refueling stations.
- Beer and cigarette companies are encouraged to sponsor
- Drivers must compete in beauty competitions focusing on singing and dancing. Hmm, not sure how much these people should actually be allowed to drive, I'm sure that can be worked out somehow.
- Most important, the entire event is covered by a reality show, with winning team getting $X million. The money doubles if the driver marries one of the engineering team nerds. Viewers can use text messages to help their favorite team. Title: "So you think you can dance, you Idyllic American Beauty...and Geeks"

Re:Applause Well Deserved, but Starkly Absent (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#24226535)

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.

100 engineering students, wait, WHAT!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24220769)

I'm an engineering student from University of Sherbrooke, a small (30 000 full time students) college in Canada which has 1400 engineering undergrads. For me, a hundred student team looks excessive. I mean, we do participate in these engineering competitions, but there is no way we could have that many people in our teams. Yet, we still have some pretty decent rankings in SAE Challenges, winning some events. There is a very strong difference in funding of these projects between the big and the small universities, but small ones can still manage to win. It's neither the number of participants in a team nor the amount of funding they get that makes winning or losing, it's the passion.

WMU! (2, Funny)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220859)

Go Western Michigan! Oh... wait... our car broke already...

Go someone else!

Re:WMU! (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221149)

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!

Batteries not included. (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 6 years ago | (#24220883)

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.

FP TROOLKORE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24221025)

Fucking. colnfirmed:

Moose repellant (2, Informative)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221073)

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?

Re:Moose repellant (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221205)

"drivers"

Re:Moose repellant (2, Funny)

tulmad (25666) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221839)

If m00se get involved, I'd keep an eye out for some people being sacked.

Re:Moose repellant (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 6 years ago | (#24224671)

regenerative breaking. For up to 20% of your energy back.

Also, if your batteries are flat and its cloudy, since moose power is solar(they eat green plants), why not make a plan involving a moose and some rope...?

Oklahoma US-75 (2, Informative)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#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...

Re:Oklahoma US-75 (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221937)

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?

Re:Oklahoma US-75 (1)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222975)

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 about 25% efficient, or the cost of the solar cells (which runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for solar cars, which are much smaller than a semi trailer), or the size and weight of the battery pack you would want to use to store the solar energy.

hey, my donated latches are on the OSU car! :) (2, Interesting)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221463)

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:
http://deftracing.com/aerocatch_hood_pins/index.htm [deftracing.com]

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:
http://oregonstate.edu/groups/solar/ [oregonstate.edu]

Re:hey, my donated latches are on the OSU car! :) (1)

grimsnaggle (1320777) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221775)

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?

The Real Story (1)

xavi62028 (877425) | more than 6 years ago | (#24221603)

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.

Re:The Real Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24223427)

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.

Actually they use the satellite to control the weather, along with the UAVs for monitoring other teams and the frickin laser on the moon for knocking out inaccurate Slashdot stories.

Michelin pulls their tires??? (1)

GarrettZilla (103173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222397)

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.

Re:Michelin pulls their tires??? (1)

cbc1920 (730236) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223247)

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.

no CMU? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222653)

Where the hell is Carnegie-Mellon [cmu.edu] ? 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? ;-)

Re:no CMU? (1)

Hal-9001 (43188) | more than 6 years ago | (#24222867)

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 [wikipedia.org] , 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.

an interesting point of the rules... (3, Interesting)

notgm (1069012) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:an interesting point of the rules... (1)

aXi (6533) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223365)

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

Re:an interesting point of the rules... (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 6 years ago | (#24225429)

I don't know much about these cars however I do know about my iPod. If they started at zero charge wouldn't that mean they would sit on the road for 24 hours charging before wanting to move, else they wouldn't get the most life from their batteries, no?

I guess it depends on what you feel is interesting, some people like golf, others like Windsurfing.

[J]

Inconsistancies. (1)

aXi (6533) | more than 6 years ago | (#24223333)

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... (1)

StarkRG (888216) | more than 6 years ago | (#24224515)

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>

Re:Using only the sun for fuel... (1)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 6 years ago | (#24225363)

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 :-)

My favourite number in this context: The energy stored in all the fossil fuel in the earth's crust equals about 20 days of sunshine. Can't find the quote for that right now, but the numbers in the first few paragraphs here [wikipedia.org] are pretty much in that ballpark.

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