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World Solar Challenge Set To Begin

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the solar-stormers dept.

Science 78

Mdog writes: "The world championship of solar car racing is about (Nov. 18...ok so I can't wait :) ) to begin Down Under. World Solar Challenge pits high school, university, and corporate teams against each other in a race across Australia's Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide." Mdog supplies some more (ahem) non-partisan information about the race below.

"My Alma Mater's team (which took second in the American Solar Challenge...go UMR!) is looking to take sweet revenge on the evil (*g*) that is the U-Michigan Solar Car team (which won ASC.) Some other North American heavyweights will be Queen's University and U-Waterloo from the frigid north. I'll defer to Ozzies post links to their favoUrite college teams, which, along with the Japanese teams, are often very good. Lastly, watch out for team Solar Motions; out for blood after major technical problems two years ago. Their array is should I put this...a lot :)

I went two years ago, and this year I'll just be looking forward to this article getting posted on /. *sigh* Good luck and good sun to all the teams. No worries!"

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I win! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2553138)

I win!

If only I... (5, Funny)

saqmaster (522261) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553141)

... lived in Australia..

Unfortunately the 2 weeks of Sun we get in the UK doesn't quite enable us to do such activities ;)

Re:If only I... (1)

Schpoonk (243228) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553174)

True, but who needs solar powered cars? Nothing compares to the good old British Raincloud-powered Tricycle Festival. I'll be trackside with Team Limp-pants later on to give you the latest feedback.

You don't need sun for solar (3, Interesting)

horza (87255) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553292)

I have a friend that uses a solar-powered boat to go up and down the Thames and it works even in cloudy weather. Hence it's still possible even if you won't get the same ooomph.


Re:If only I... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2555820)

weeell, there is always the Costa del Sol, right? Oh, right, too many senoritas to allow you to do any work :)

word (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2553143)


fourthpost sukkaz (-1, Offtopic)

earlNEXABIT (534776) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553147)

The fiscal party was lovely while it lasted: fat revenue surpluses for the state, rebate checks and tax cuts for taxpayers, and for workers, rising wages -- a byproduct of record low unemployment. For eight years, the state's biggest problem was how much extra money to hand out and to whom. Now comes the hangover. The 2002-03 budget, just four months old, has a hole that may be between $600 million and $1 billion deep. The state has taken in $152 million less than projected since July, and revenues are expected to fall short by an additional $50 million in November. The problem is not Minnesota's alone. About 44 states now project budget shortfalls. Of those, 28 either have ordered emergency budget cuts, such as spending and hiring freezes, or are crafting such measures. Special legislative sessions have been called by the governors of Iowa, Nebraska, Connecticut, Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Hawaii. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura hasn't ordered any emergency budget actions, nor is he said to be considering a special session. And that, former Gov. Arne Carlson said, may be a mistake. "I'm surprised we haven't taken even those elementary budget measures," said Carlson, a veteran of the last recession that hit the state, in 1991, just as he was taking office. "I would do it right now. They've already lost nearly six months -- one-fourth of the budget cycle. The longer you wait, the worse it will be. The governor has got to show some leadership. This is where you start to earn your pay." Others not waiting "Most states are doing this on their own -- they're not waiting for their legislatures to go into session," said Robin Prunty, a director in the public finance department of Standard and Poor's who has researched financial trends in the 50 states. Prunty said that Minnesota, with $1 billion in budget reserves, is in a relatively strong fiscal position compared with other states. However, Minnesota can't rely on its reserves alone. "If you spend down your reserves to solve what might be ongoing budget problems, the implication is you're just sending the bill to the next governor and Legislature," Carlson said. . "And it sends a signal of instability to bond houses." Action taken in some states has been dramatic, even among those with sizable budget reserves. Georgia's governor has asked agencies to trim 2002 budgets by 2.5 percent and 2003 budgets by 5 percent, despite the state's $1.8 billion reserve. Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia have delayed or canceled capital projects. California, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia all have instituted hiring freezes or other budgetary restrictions, according to a budget report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. To deal with a $600 million shortfall, Ohio's governor has ordered across-the-board cutbacks and said the state may have to close at least one prison. Iowa's governor has proposed a 4.3 percent across-the-board cut. Minnesota Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock said the administration is considering a range of options, but hasn't directed agencies to take any action. She said that, "at some point," Ventura may want to order agencies to limit purchases and freeze hiring. The problem, she said, is that the bulk of the state's expenditures -- such as K-12 expenses -- are mandated by law and cannot be altered at the discretion of the governor alone. Measures that are within Ventura's discretion -- hiring freezes, agency spending freezes, travel restrictions -- wouldn't be enough to solve the state's projected shortfall, Wheelock said, although they continue to be evaluated. "The easy solutions are gone," she said. "We need permanent adjustments to the budget, and that requires legislative action." Ventura spokesman John Wodele said discussions on emergency budget measures are "very, very preliminary. It would be prudent on the part of [department] managers to look at what could be trimmed, but we have not gone into any detail yet." State Planning Director Dean Barkley said Minnesota is better prepared than other states. "We don't think we need to do [budget cuts] yet. We're trying to be thoughtful rather than just react," he said. Pressures mounting The fiscal pressures are real and mounting almost by the day. The October revenue report showed a $53 million drop in tax revenues below what had been forecast. Most troubling, State Economist Tom Stinson said, is that income tax revenues had dropped in October. That, coupled with a national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, he said, paints a picture that is "absolutely depressing." State unemployment figures won't be out until midweek, he said, but Minnesota has lost 19,000 jobs since May -- 8,000 of those in August alone. He said he wouldn't be surprised if the figure for September were even higher. If such trends continue, "we're facing a lot more serious change to the forecast and a deeper recession than most people were thinking even at the first of October," Stinson said. Art Rolnick, research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and a member of the governor's Council of Economic Advisors, said the economy probably will remain sluggish until the nation's war against terrorism is resolved. While several fundamental indicators look good -- worker productivity was up nationally in the third quarter and the banking industry remains strong -- business investment might lag until terrorism fears are eased, he said. In the meantime, "what to do now becomes a political question more than an economic one," Rolnick said. The state's leaders must make value judgments about where to cut, how much to tap state reserve funds and even what taxes to increase to cover any shortfalls. Prunty said that as far as bond houses are concerned, "one path is not more desirable than another. We are indifferent to whether it's spending cuts or revenue enhancers. What we want is some sense that there is attention to the forecast. The longer you wait to implement fiscal restrictions, the less effective they are." Keeping bond raters happy is a major concern for states like Minnesota, which doesn't want to jeopardize the triple-A rating that allows it to borrow at the lowest rates. Those states that rely on a combination of cuts, possible tax increases and a prudent use of cash reserves will weather the economic storm best, Prunty said. Carlson said Ventura should try to put a package together soon -- but not on his own. "We made a lot of mistakes in '91," Carlson said, referring to early budget cuts he attempted that legislators resisted. Instead, he recommended bringing legislative leaders together as soon as the state's November budget forecast is in and the size of the projected shortfall known. "I would tell them, 'You approved this budget as well as I did, so we're all in this soup together.' Get a pre-agreement on spending cuts, tax increases and some judicious use of the reserve -- maybe a couple of hundred million -- and call a special session for next month." The regular legislative session doesn't start until Jan. 29 and can run into May -- too long, Carlson contends, to wait for budgetary action and too close to next year's elections. By then, nearly half of the two-year budget cycle will have elapsed, he said, necessitating even more painful cuts for the second half. "Ultimately, the responsibility rests with the governor," Carlson said. "He's got the staff, the resources and the ability to marshall public opinion. He's got to lead." earl / nexabit says hi

Go Netherlands ! (2, Interesting)

Tha_Zanthrax (521419) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553166)

The dutch entrance [] for this race looks really serious, the even got help from ESA [] . They are testing a new type of solarcell which is to be used on communication satelites. Most of the competitors in the WSR are universities (so it this one) but this is proffesional material !!

Re:Go Netherlands ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2559740)

No clogs!?!? Get with it, clogs are all the rage! :)

No Survivors (-1, Troll)

Lunastorm (471804) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553173)

First Survivor and now this! It's good to see people taking up an interest in Australia again. Anyway, is this going to be broadcast anywhere? I would love to see those solar cars crash into each other live and I know there'll be plenty of that happening with drunken college students and newly licensed high school students at the wheels.

Re:No Survivors (1)

schmelter_tim (457984) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553290)

It's good to see people taking up an interest in Australia again.

"Good" is relative. Here are the dirty little secrets the Australian media conspiracy "neglected" to mention:

  • The contest is being sponsored by Vegemite
  • The theme for the contest is composed and performed by Men at Work
  • MC? Yahoo Serious...

Re:No Survivors (1)

laptop006 (37721) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555975)

1. Vegemite is owned by an overseas company.
2. How about getting Dick Smith to sponser & MC it???

Re:No Survivors (1)

Tarel (532457) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553301)

This is an academic race, not a spectator sport... they don't go that fast, and it's more like a science fair versus a fashion show at the giddy speeds averaging upto 120 km/h... One vehicle will out class it's competitors and simply 'own' the race.

Speaking as a person who has seen the racers silently slink by, I don't think that watching them crash would be very satisfying, some guy jumping out of a crumpled solar car and running around screaming "It burns... it burns!!!"... battery acid after all isn't as much fun as gasoline when it comes to spectacular crashes.

Re:No Survivors (3, Informative)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553397)

Actually, they're safer than that..

Usually the battery packs are kept compartmentalised from the rest of the shell so that they can't spill onto the driver. There is also usually at least two driver's egresses built into each car (even if that egress means kicking out the bottom of the car).

The crashes that do happen are usually brought under control very quickly. The brakes on these things are usually quite good, and the cars are usually able to be salvaged (and of course the drivers are generally safe).

As long as the team is aware and treats their drivers nicely (there are some horror stories about, for example, seatbelts being tied to the chassis of the vehicle bit a couple of bits of wire), then the cars are actually quite safe.

Re:No Survivors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2557072)

Well there was the time when Sunswift nearly ran over Ingo and Stuart................

Re:No Survivors (1)

Jazu (215175) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556183)

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

Good to see this (4, Insightful)

Anton Anatopopov (529711) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553184)

But what I would like to see would be a competition for fuel-cell based vehicles. Fuel Cells are obviously the way forward for the future, so why is no attention paid to them ?

Could it be that the big oil interests have no interest in a cheap efficient environmentally friendly source of power ?

You have to wonder sometimes when good technology is ignored, is there some sort of hidden oil-company aganda ?

Fuel cells still technically immature (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553263)

As I read it, fuel cell technology (for cars) is still kinda immature even for experimental race vehicles.

Besides which, everything in these solar vehicles, including the aerodynamics, efficient electric motors, the power management, and so on, is directly applicable to future fuel cell vehicles anyway.

Re:Good to see this (2, Interesting)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553276)

Actually a lot of the technology used in the WSC, such as wheel motors, and battery technology, are very well applicable to other vehicles.

I know that Aurora's entrant vehicle in the '99 WSC (which won) had a wheel motor of efficiency 98.4%! And that wasn't even the most efficient wheel.

Re:Good to see this (5, Informative)

pmc (40532) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553339)

Could it be that the big oil interests have no interest in a cheap efficient environmentally friendly source of power ?

You have to wonder sometimes when good technology is ignored, is there some sort of hidden oil-company aganda ?

And this got labelled informative? Sheesh.

Here [] you can see a list of solar cell manufacturers - at least two oil companies (BP and Shell) are on it.

Here [] is a view from the EU about the future of big business in photovoltaics.

Here [] is an account of Shell's involvement in Fuel Cells and Hydrogen power in general.

Here [] is an account of some of Shell's involvement with biomass power generation.

Here [] is an overview.

Still, no doubt these will be dismissed with a "Yes, but apart from the solar cells, the fuel cells, the biomass research, the wind energy, and forestry, what have the oil companies ever done for renewable energy?".

Re:Good to see this (4, Interesting)

horza (87255) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553435)

Sorry but oil companies are not the people pushing fuel cell technology. Try DaimlerChrysler [] , General Motors [] , Toyota [] , Nissan [] , Ford [] , amongst others. You will find most of the oil companies 'fuel cell research' are actually 'joint ventures' with other large companies where they encourage the use of gasoline as a fuel cell source instead of alternatives such as hydrogen. And though some of the oil companies do some solar research, a lot of their technology is based on buying up small independant solar firms. Oil companies have nothing *against* alternative energy but their motivation is profit at any price. Thanks to independant work being done all over the world, and plenty of governments subsidy, green energy is now being eyed by oil companies as a new cost-effective area in which they can become a monopoly.


Bollocks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2556652)

According the new scientist I read last week or the week before, the largest manufacturer of solar cells in the world was... BP Solar. And that was before they commission the their new fab here (in Australia) or the new fab they're building/bought in Spain.

Far from evil corporates trying to supress green tech they're investing in it so that if it does displace fossil fuel, their income streams continue. Right now, they just provision their manufacturing capacity to meet demand.

So, the real conspiracy then is you, conspiring not to buy solar water heating, and photvoltaics for your roof. (Sorry, I got carried away with the rank, unsupported speculation bug!) ;-)

Re:Good to see this (3, Insightful)

horza (87255) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553354)

But what I would like to see would be a competition for fuel-cell based vehicles. Fuel Cells are obviously the way forward for the future, so why is no attention paid to them ?

There are competitions involving fuel cells, including Future Truck [] and karting [] . Fuel Cells take a lot of R&D but when their price begins to decline we will see a lot of independant parties begin to become creative with what can be done... then we will see an increase in the number of races.

Could it be that the big oil interests have no interest in a cheap efficient environmentally friendly source of power ?

The big oil interests certainly have an interest in green energy... if it will make them money. Look at BP buying up all the small solar companies and cornering the market in solar cells.

You have to wonder sometimes when good technology is ignored, is there some sort of hidden oil-company aganda ?

Fuel cell technology is certainly not being ignored, it has massive momentum behind it. Most of this is from the car companies, who don't really care what goes into the engine (oil, hydrogen, etc) as long as people buy their cars. If fuel cell technology fails to take off it will be because of public apathy in supporting it, prefering to pay slightly less for old established petrol based polluting machines instead of the new and inevitably to begin with more expensive green option.


Big oil probably wouldn't mind (2)

Goonie (8651) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553412)

Because it gets rid of the ability by the world's largest cartel to dicate the price of the product they sell.

Medium-size oil, without the massive R&D budgets of big oil but lacking the nimbleness of startups, would likely be in big trouble if we shifted to hydrogen fuel cells.

Re:Good to see this (1)

lordlod (458156) | more than 12 years ago | (#2558012)

the motivation behind the oil companies to invest in alternate fuel technology is two fold.

The first is that by investing in (read buying up) new fuel innovations they can squash them, prevent them from reaching the global market. It is easy to see that they gain by doing this.

The second is that the are realists. They acknowledge that the time of oil as a fuel will eventually come to an end, or slow. To prevent themselves slowly collapsing when this occurs they need to diversify, one easy way to do this is into the alternate fuel sector. Its obvious that as their traditional market declines this new area will pack up, and with a collection of alternate fuel devices and concepts (from motivation 1) they are in a strong position in this market.

Re:Good to see this (2, Informative)

Phoebus0 (446231) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553365)

This race has been around since the late 80's, before fuel cells were even viable as an energy source. Nowadays, this race exists to promote creativity and thinking for team and to advance the technology of alternative-fuel vehicles. How much fuel do you think you'd save if your car was super-strong and only weighed 800 lbs.?

Plus, fuel cells produce electricity. If more efficient ways are created of using that electricity, so much the better. I've had a part in a few American-side solar races, and usually, the oil companies want nothing to do with them, since it does have the potential of affecting their bottom line. The poster from Sunrayce '93 was a picture of a solar car driving right by a gas station. To bad the humor was lost on most..

Re:Good to see this (1)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555935)

One of the significant aspects of solar car racing is that you're doing it all on a shoestring power budget. These things drive at highway speed using roughly the power of a hair dryer. This requires nice light batteries, efficient motors, and clever aerodynamic and mechanical design. When you're redefining the state of the art, something useful usually comes out of it. Solar car races are also often a proving ground for new technologies that teams are eager to give a try and corporations are eager to get real-world performance data on.

Fuel Cells may be a great technology for normal automobiles, but the cool thing about this race is that these things are quite far removed from normal automobiles.

Re:Good to see this (1)

Becho62282 (172807) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556250)

Actually Fuel Cell racing is now finally reaching its infancy. Recently, the American Solar Challenge had its post race debriefing and it was decided that fuel cell technology should be looked into for future Solar Rayces. Talk at that time was that fuel cells would have an unfair advantage over Solar Vehicles, so it was considered that they be rayced along with the Solar Cars in the ASC, but as a separate class of raycer.

Contrary to popular belief the leaders in fuel cell technology are actually car companies (like Ford and Chevy). They realize the problems that are going to be facing not only us, but them in the future. That is another reason that several car companies support solar raycing.

Just my opinion.

Robert Becho
UMR Solar Car Team Secretary
GO 142! (our team number is 42, but it was taken already for the WSC)

Will a solar car ever be a reality ? (2)

jneves (448063) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553190)

I wonder if a solar car is ever going to be a reality, after all, the potential market includes southern USA and a lot of developing and third-world countries. With OPEC controlling oil prices so it doesn't loose control of the energy market by making alternative energies cheap enough, I doubt that we'll ever see a solar power aided car (fueled by solar+gas) anytime in the next 30 years.

OTOH, I wonder if a plane wouldn't be an interesting use. After all they have a lot of area on top, they can fly over clouds, and the industry is always looking for ways to cut costs.

Re:Will a solar car ever be a reality ? (1)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553363)

I don't think solar cars will be a reality for the moment.. The cars themselves are just not able to be converted to commercial use so easily (most of the cars are very expensive, not exactly "safe", and cramped more than anything else).

But the technology developed as a result of the cars, is very applicable to everyday life. Even the research that goes into the aerodynamics, for example, is having an impact on commercial vehicles..

Solar powered planes (1)

Hittite Creosote (535397) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553410)

People are already doing this of course - the Helios project is one that comes to mind, as an unmanned craft intended to be capable of flying for six months without landing - a cheap atmospheric alternative to satellites. not particularly informative link []

Re:Will a solar car ever be a reality ? (1)

Andrew Leeson (473203) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553484)

Does anyone have any stats on the races over the past decade as regards length and time taken. I know solar cells have become much more efficient and I'd be interested to see if the trend is accelerating or what?

No, yes, and maybe (5, Informative)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553530)

I happen to be a member of the Yale Solar Car team - Team Lux. So needless to say I've studied solar cars quite a bit. So...

NO: Solar cars today are an experiment in engineering, not a solution to your everyday commuting needs. We can get relatively high speeds and drive all day, but the cars are very wide and long, flat, only hold one medium-to-small person (barely) and are limited by the environment.

YES: Any electric car could easily be supplemented by the addition of a high efficiency array. It wouldn't provide enough power to drive the car all day like we do with the current crop of cars, but since most people only drive their cars about 2-4 hours a day it could help a lot, and could be a real lifesaver if you ran out of power. OTOH, even a well designed commuter car is going to be much heavier than our solar cars and have much less array area. What would make the most sense is for all carports to have arrays on top that could store and transfer energy to the cars parked under them.

MAYBE: I don't know that electrical cars or fuel cells are the (near) future. Chemically propelled cars can potentially be much simpler and more efficient, since they aren't losing power through the extra electrical storage/transformation. And you can make fuel using solar power (you already were with the fuel cells). And until efficiency actually matters and the big-ass SUVs get off the road, it just won't be safe for extra-lightweight cars.

BTW, the plane thing has already been done with the Helios project. And you're right, it has a lot of potential.

Re:No, yes, and maybe (2)

-Harlequin- (169395) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556129)

I happen to be a member of the Yale Solar Car team - Team Lux. So needless to say I've studied solar cars quite a bit. So...

WHat kind of batteries tend to get used?
I'm assuming that you want the most storage for the least weight (polymer batteries?) vs limited budget (cheap-ass lead-acid...)

Chemically propelled cars can potentially be much simpler and more efficient, since they aren't losing power through the extra electrical storage/transformation

I do a lot of solar projects (mostly on a miniature scale, won a few small solar competitions, etc), and sometimes keep an eye on some commerical electric car developements, and my understanding is that the opposite is true - anything with a combustion engine suffers from hundreds of moving, wearing parts, relies on kludgey, expensive additional systems (clutch, etc), dumps all it's energy every time you hit the brakes - then wastes fuel getting back up to speed again. (Which in a city commute might mean you're spending ten times the energy actually needed. Hence hybrids getting up to four times the mileage).
Electric engines are cheaper to make, last longer, more reliable, often involve no moving parts bar the shaft itself, gruntier even when running on significantly less energy, etc etc.

But until an electricity storage system gets to the point where it hold even a signficant fraction of the energy that petrol does, you're right.

BTW - I'd be interested to know how many orders of magnitude less energy these solar cars run on compared to a combustion car - can you give us an idea of what a typical solar-racer solar panel output is?

Re:No, yes, and maybe (2)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 12 years ago | (#2559439)

Our team currently uses the best lead-acid batteries available. They're expensive, but much less so than Lithium Ions, which is what most teams are moving to. But of course they're very heavy. Budget does make a big difference in the kind of car you can build, with regards to practically every component. You may have heard that the University of Michigan won the recent american solar challenge this past summer - what you probably didn't hear is that they have huge amounts of resources both within and outside their school, and a monstrously large budget. Their car cost over a $1,000,000 for components alone. In contrast our current car is worth about $250,000.

When I talk about chemical engines, I'm talking mostly about potential efficiency. There are some pretty amazing engine designs out there - there was a recent article about a rotary engine that only had one moving part besides the shaft and valves and required no lubrication.

Most teams use the same type of engine, which is built into one of the wheels. It's a lot louder than you would expect (makes this wierd popping noise) but gets better than 90% efficiency. OTOH the power range it can provide is limited.

I'm not sure about orders of magnitude, but I can tell you our car runs on about as much power as a hairdryer.

Re:Will a solar car ever be a reality ? (1)

ksp0704 (242246) | more than 12 years ago | (#2557034)

When solar power finally becomes a common source of power, the arrays won't be attached to the cars. The Better wasy to do this is to have a relatively large, high efficency array mounted on the roof of your garage or something, and then just pjug your car in at night. This is not currently feasible due to limitations of the battery technology. When things such as high density lithium polymers reach production, this concept becomes more likely. But the energy storage medium doesn't have to be a battery. It is just as easy to use a fuel cell or a capacitor to store power. All these technologies exist, but are not common or far enough along in developement to be all that practical for daily usage.

Re:Will a solar car ever be a reality ? (2)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 12 years ago | (#2561079)

Why can't the arrays be installed in the surface of the roadway? They could transfer their energy to any compatible car that passes over them....

Plus (here in the USA anyway) there is a LOT of road surface available which is currently only used to hold up vehicles.

imagine.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2553199)

..a cluster of these bai'owoof's...or not.

How many years now have these things been gathering and we still haven't seen any kind of breakout designs, while airborne versions have leapt forward with true innovation. I think it's time we faced the fact that solar powered ground vehicles are nothing more than expensive soapbox derby cars, with the emphasis on grad papers and group photos.

Re:imagine.. (1)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553431)

Honda, Ford, Toyota and Nissan have all started to develop cars running on technology first utilised in solar cars, and, in fact, are employing former members of Solar Car Teams specifically to help in such projects.

A long ride (2)

imrdkl (302224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553200)

Here's a map [] from the homepage. Looks to be about 3000 km. anyone know for sure?

More importantly, how does this traumatize the local kangaroo population?

Re:A long ride (1)

erpbridge (64037) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553225)

That distance sounds about right from what they mentioned in Race The Sun [] .

1434 km (2, Informative)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553256)

The distance is right on the web page
Saturday 17/11 Registration and Scrutineering at Alice Springs

Monday 19/11 DAY 1 Alice Springs to Erldunda 199 km
Tuesday 20/11 DAY 2 Erldunda to Marla 252 km
Wednesday 21/11 DAY 3 Marla to Coober Pedy 233 km
Thursday 22/11 DAY 4 Coober Pedy to Glendambo 253 km
Friday 23/11 DAY 5 Glendambo to Port Augusta 289 km
Saturday 24/11 DAY 6 Port Augusta to Quorn 116 km
Sunday 25/11 DAY 7 Balaklava to Adelaide 92 km
Regulations of the 2001 World Solar Cycle Challenge, 6.2 The Course []

Re:1434 km (1)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553327)

Ummm. That's the solar cycle race. ;)

The solar car race is approximately 3,000km.

Re:A long ride (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2554426)

More importantly, how does this traumatize the local kangaroo population?

It won't. They're solar cars. Since all marsupials are nocturnal, interactions should be minimal.

not all marsupials are nocturnal (2)

Technodummy (204943) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556666)

Kangaroos are daytime critters, but are sometimes active at night, and get squished by cars (or cars squished by the big ones).

Marsupial possums are often nocturnal.

Regular cars are more likely to disturb wildlife than solar cars.

wanna know more about em? []

the route taken by the solar challenge is (I presume) chosen for maximum sun. a lot of the places [] on the map are incredibly dry and have little wildlife due to the lack of water. Coober [] Pedy [] is like a moonscape, Alice Springs [] is a lot more hospitable, as is Tennant Creek [] .

Water is not always easy to come by in the desert [] , which can have an unusual [] effect on wildlife.

Truck road trains [] and tour buses use these roads, so solar cars should be a nice change of pace.

If you're (physically) going to watch the challenge, don't miss some of the amazing places out there.

Sunswift (1)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553241)

I used to be with Sunswift [] (and now work for CPVE [] at UNSW, where I'll be helping to cover the race). From what I've heard from the guys still with the team, they've got a very nice car put together. While I won't say who my money would be on, Sunswift is a strong contender..

I'd like to see... (1)

Chardish (529780) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553254)

Personally, I think that solar power, while a great power source, should be considered a secondary form of power. An electric car that could be run in the daytime by solar panels would be incredibly fuel-efficient.


Re:I'd like to see... (1)

danjerdanjel (519284) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553296)

Most of the "power" for the solar cars actually comes from the batteries.. Queen's University's car, for example, in the '99 WSC could run at 70kph on the array alone, but at 120kph with the battery power as well.

So, yeah, they practically are a secondary form of power, but still.. The technology used there, goes on to more practical applications.

Holy Shit! (2, Funny)

s1r_m1xalot (218277) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553332)

Sun runs cars? I thought they only did servers and that Java stuff. I wonder if they can port this stuff to lawnmowers. I hope Microsoft doesn't get wind of this.....

Pity my old college isn't going... (1)

kria (126207) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553417)

... I'm guessing the cost of transporation was a bit much for a small private school. What school? Rose Hulman, with the Solar Phantom [] . They've done fairly well, in my opinion, for a school that's only got the population of a large high school.

That's University of Missouri at Rolla (1)

Maledictus (52013) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553459)

Just noticed that the name of the university isn't spelled out in the text, not even in the "Related Links" sidebar.

And, by the way: GO UMR!

Good to see what is indeed a fine engineering university getting some press. Not that I'm spouse is an alum: BSEE, 1983. And I'm a "townie:" my dad taught Physics at UMR up until his retirement in 1981.

Good luck!

Re:That's University of Missouri at Rolla (1)

(startx) (37027) | more than 12 years ago | (#2554263)

wow! a townie that admits he's a townie! That's unheard of in Rolla.

Re:That's University of Missouri at Rolla (1)

Maledictus (52013) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555142)

"She" and I don't live there anymore and I'm older and wiser - place of origin means less when you're 38 and the mom of 3 than when you're 19 and trying to get laid.

Even my husband, who *hated* Rolla when he went to school there, now admits there are certain merits to small town life.

And...when your dad's a PhD in nuclear Physics who insisted upon the highest in academic pursuits, it's kinda hard to think of yourself as a small town, truck drivin', gun totin', country girl. I didn't exactly fit in with my small-town peers.


Electric Vehicles (1)

Darnit (75420) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553491)

It's pretty amazing what you can do with the solar vehicles considering the truly poor energy density available even in a 1 meter x 3 meter area. The amount of energy it takes to move those vehicles is extremely small. For the high power stuff you need to go to [] or for the day to day usable electric cars, trikes, motorcycles, and bicycles check out EV Album [] . Many of these were hand built.

Tough Event (2, Interesting)

Macfox (50100) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553551)

2 Years ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get involved in 1999 solar cycle event, which runs parallel to the World Solar Challenge (Alice/Adelaide).

These solar car's really hoot. Pedaling our guts out in the 40 degree heat (45km/h max) these million dollar machines cruised at over 110km/h often over taking normal road vehicles.

Many of the big budget international teams struggled with the harsh conditions. Even the smallest of problems, are logistical nightmares, as vast legs of the race are held in remote areas, 1000kms from major cities.

Even though entering WSC event requires $100,000's, money alone will not win the event and more often than not, the simplest design wins.

Nerveless I wish all the international and local teams the best of luck.

For anyone living in Adelaide, I highly recommend making the trip over to Victoria race course for the finish of the event and look at the sheer level of skilled engineering that goes into these vehicles.


Re:Tough Event (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2557547)

1999: wasnt that the Year Southern Alliance won??

Maybe (-1, Offtopic)

cheese_wallet (88279) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553729)

Last night I dreamt of Natalie Portman. She was eating hot grits.

Thank you.

Perfect timing indeed (1)

ghmh (73679) | more than 12 years ago | (#2553865)

Refer 3 stories earlier.

Now every can lie in the middle of the Nullabor plain and watch funny looking cars during the day and pretty patterns in the sky at night. (Meteor showers).

Hmmmm, I wonder whether meteor-powered cars are legal?

(Meteor-powered? Oh no, sounds like another slashdot poll on powers again....)

Too bad the Mississippi Team won't be going. (1)

svallarian (43156) | more than 12 years ago | (#2554045)

Thanks to the events on 9/11 the administration of Houston, MS High School...the team that *won* the US competition (by a good 230 miles!!) won't be travelling to australia to the world championship.

Damn terrorists.

Re:Too bad the Mississippi Team won't be going. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2555616)

Umm... Right. The "US competition" would be the American Solar Challenge [] , which I see you didn't participate in. Are you talking about the Winston Solar Challenge [] ? That's just a low-level High School competition. I've been to it before (I won't say with who). It's neat, fun, and you learn a lot from it. Just don't go around thinking you "won the US competition", because you didn't, and saying that is just asking for trouble. You won a US competition, and should be proud of it. I know my team (from a different year) sucked. Your team has better funding and more members. Your car was better. I liked you guys. Just don't pretend you're better than you really are.

Re:Too bad the Mississippi Team won't be going. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2557039)

With respect that is ridiculous. Air travel is the safest form of travel available, Australia is practically the safest country to travel in the world. The prize for total gutlessness for 2001 must go to the admin of Houston MS High School. If you change your life to this extent because of the fear of terrorism, you might as well dig a hole and hide in it and admit the terrorists have won. People who show this sort of "back bone" are unbelievable. Sixty years ago that sort of back bone would have meant that the democracies would have surrendered to Hitler without fight, that the USA would have capitulated to Japan after a single leaflet drop ! Get a sense of proportion and grow a spine, whimps.

The DIY Geek team (1)

davidcake (518250) | more than 12 years ago | (#2554477)

Check out the first ever team from West Australia, Sungroper [] who have put together their entry on a comparitive shoestring. Designed and built by geeks in their part time, and mostly financed by them as well.

Not likely to be a winner, as its going up against industrial prototypes worth millions. But an inspiring example of what geeks can do when they put their mind to it.

One of the team founders is a very well known Macintosh programmer, Peter Lewis.

mmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2556681)

australian, geeky and Mac-friendly... *jealous of the WA girls*

Re:The DIY Geek team (1)

justkwin (537613) | more than 11 years ago | (#2585460)

I dunno, if you ask me those West Australian MacGeeks should be out that creating cool Mac software rather than putzing around with solar cars. *grumble grumble grumble*

Queen's Mirage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2554536)

Mirage is going to win for sure.
Why? Because I worked on it!

GO Queen's GO (1)

mutex2k (471411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555754)

We are the best!!!!! Let's get first place this year.

Memories (0)

javaaddikt (385701) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555765)

One of my professors here at the U. of Oklahoma was telling us about the great times from last year's competition. The best part were the Japanese. They were always dressed in spotless white uniforms. Never got dirty. Plus they were fierce competitors. They were dogging the team the entire way, so one night when both teams were camping out together and had a little friendly fireside chat. And copious amounts of alcohol courtesy of the Americans. Well, let's just say the Japanese weren't such a problem the next day. A little American intuition and some big American bellies won the day. :)

My experiences from the ASC (2)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555899)

I am on the University of Virginia solar car team, and I remember some of these teams from the American Solar Challenge this summer. I have a few comments on the teams:

Arizona University:

If memory serves, these are the guys whose car spun out during qualifiers and flew through the air, tearing off the suspension when it landed. When I saw it happen, I thought they were finished. They had it up and running for the race and did quite well, much better than we did.


I see they've withdrawn. They had some problems during the ASC. I can't really say what, but they were very far back in the pack despite what should have been a very high-performing solar array.

Kansas State University:

It's sad to see these guys are out of it, because we worked with them during the ASC getting our car and their car to pass scrutineering.

Queens University:

Wow. That car is nice. That's all I can say.

South Bank University:

These guys did pretty well in the ASC. They had an accident during the race and severely damaged their body, but duct tape kept them going and competitive.

University of Michigan:

They rebuilt their car 17 days before the ASC because it was destroyed during testing. They have a GaAs solar array, Lithium Ion or Lithium Polymer batteries, a very sleek design, and 4-wheel steering. Apparently when they redid the 4-wheel steering, they replaced the mechanical linkage with an electronic control. It's the most advanced solar car I've ever seen.

University of Missouri-Rolla:

These guys nearly won the ASC despite only having a 14% efficient array. For reference, some teams had up to 26% efficient arrays. Their car is incredibly light and efficient. Nobody in the race was even close to them on mechanical efficiency.

University of Toronto:

Good car. Nothing much comes to mind. Didn't see them much because they stayed ahead of us.

University of Waterloo:

Yet another very good car. They did a very good job of integrating the wheel farings with the body to keep aerodynamic drag very low.

That's about all I have to say about that. If you want to see how the ASC went, check out their website at [] .

Re:My experiences from the ASC (1)

questioner (147810) | more than 12 years ago | (#2580229)

Speaking as a Queen's student, I must say - thanks. :-) I've examined our car, and briefly considered being a part of the team responsible for designing our 'next' car.

If you check out the webpage: you'll see Mirage -- this guy's right -- isn't it nice?

Interesting differences between 'our' car and others is that ours is entirely student-designed. The only review that it gets is for safety by a couple of mech.eng profs here, and the occasional consultation with the companies the guys (and gals!) buy their equipment from.

According to things I've read, the UMich team gets a fair bit of help from some industry people in the area -- that's their way, and it certainly has improved their car. I personally admire teams like Waterloo/us/etc. who manage to design their car entirely on their own. It's two years of work and literally over a million dollars to build these things -- do you think it's worth it?

Anyway, 'Go Queen's!'. Queen's College colours we are wearing once again,
Soiled as they are by the battle and the rain,
Yet another victory to wipe away the stain,
So, Gaels go in and win!
Oil thigh na Banrighinn a'Banrighinn gu brath!
Oil thigh na Banrighinn a'Banrighinn gu brath!
Oil thigh na Banrighinn a'Banrighinn gu brath!
Cha-Gheill! Cha-Gheill! Cha-Gheill!

Re:My experiences from the ASC (1)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 12 years ago | (#2582073)

We designed our own car too. We did it on a shoestring of about $250k. We didn't do all the manufacturing, but the design work was all us. The wheel wells were designed by a first-year Computer Science student (myself). Of course, we came in 24th, so I will refrain from bragging about how much better we are than the teams that got outside assistance that kicked our asses.

As to your question, yes, it is worth every second of those hundred hour work weeks and every penny of the sponsors' money. Easy for me to say about the money, but our biggest sponsors end up hiring a lot of our graduates.

Question for solar power engineers out there (1)

Politas (1535) | more than 12 years ago | (#2555977)

How large a solar array do you think would be needed to power a small air-conditing unit, sufficient to keep 2-3 cubic metres of air cool on a hot day?

It's a project I'd love to see done, but i don't have anything approaching the electrical know-how to do it myself. What I'd like is a something to keep my car cool on a hot day, and if it can be powered by solar power, then it's plausible. The hotter the day, the more light you have for the photovoltaics - but is it enough?

Re:Question for solar power engineers out there (1)

ParisTG (106686) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556777)

Rough rule of thumb is that the sun output about 1kW/sq. meter. Based on that, you can figure out how big an array you'd need, with a given efficiency.

For example, a 4x8 meter array, with 15% cells, outputs about 4*8*0.15*1 = 1.2kW power.

Now, figure out how much power your cooler needs, and design from there.

WSC (1)

ksp0704 (242246) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556335)

I'm a member of the Principia College Team (7th ASC) and I'm leaving for WSC tommorrow. Our team is just scouting this race, so hopefully i'll have time to post a thing two to /.

The obligatory cheer (1)

Sir Joltalot (66097) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556602)

Go Waterloo! UoW is where it's at.. u guys down there kick some ass!

U(niversity of)SA! U(niversity of)SA! (1)

The Milky Bar Kid (411137) | more than 12 years ago | (#2556792)

One of the top local entrants (and my Uni's entrants) have their page at:

They came 2nd in the 2001 sunrace from Sydney to Adelaide. I get to see their car drive past my office some days... :).

Ah the memories! (1)

Lurks (526137) | more than 12 years ago | (#2557708)

I worked on a car in the first World Solar Challenge. In fact, I was working/studying at the Northern Territory University (NTU) in Darwin Australia at the time. That's where the race starts, so you can imagine as the 'local boys', we had a good deal of support from the crowd at the starting line!

As has been pointed out elsewhere, this isn't really about making a solar powered commuting vehical. It's worth noting how much additional benefits came out of the fundamental research going into the entries in the race. A GM team built a car that stormed in to win the first race, and little wonder since they had millions of dollars to play with and bought the entire world's terrestrial supply of galium arsenide solar cells at the time (the rest being bound for space).

A lot of fundamental research was done on improving the efficiency of electric motors, their drive electronics and simulations as to the most efficient way to drive these vehicals. Hell, even the telemetry to the support vehical was something pretty new for the time!

There ought to be many more of these sort of worldwide research challenges. Especially in areas that really will become important soon such as fuel cells as others have pointed out. I see now they have difference classes in this race for battery as it is - little wonder, my god we would have died for Lithium Ion batteries in 1987!

It's just a bit of a shame that the organisation of the race itself is fairly poor and that the web sites get dumped with each new event and hence sponsor. It could have made for a wonderful web site with all that archive material.

Just as well NTU has done a fab site [] of their own.

P.S. You can't imagine my elation at seeing NTU's car come second in the 2000 race, not to mention claiming the world record for fastest long distance solar car!

Cost Limitation (0)

cliffy2000 (185461) | more than 12 years ago | (#2580275)

Should there be a total cost of materials limitation? Perhaps this could equalize the competition - a less financially sound operation could perhaps compete with major universities... it might be wise.
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