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Transportation Australia Education Power

World Solar Challenge 2011 Starts In Two Weeks 58

Posted by timothy
from the aussies-know-transportation dept.
First time accepted submitter SustainableJeroen writes "In less than two weeks the bi-annual World Solar Challenge will start. Around forty teams, mostly made up of university students from around the globe, will battle each other for first place in the de facto world championship of solar car racing. The teams will race each other on the 3000km Stuart highway between Darwin and Adelaide, while dodging road trains, dust devils and kangaroos. The fastest teams will cover this distance in four to five days, while it is by no means certain that all teams will make it to the finish line. In 2009, the Tokai University team from Japan unexpectedly took first place in this high-tech brain sport, with four-time winner Nuon Solar Team having to settle for second place. Who will win this edition? There are a number of very strong contenders, but as the differences among the top teams and their cars are very, very small it's impossible to say in advance."
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World Solar Challenge 2011 Starts In Two Weeks

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  • Being Dutch, I feel a little proud that our tiny country has come so far in these races, between all those high-tech equipped teams :)
    • You guys should make some solar powered bicycles with GPS systems and 4G wireless. Then when somebody borrows your bike in Amsterdam, you can push the "Home" button and your bike autopilots back to its docking station at home.

    • by Gertlex (722812)

      What? You mean yay for your high-tech equipped team that competes with lesser-tech equipped teams?

      • If you watch the races and follow the endless preparations you'll see that it's not just high tech vs high tech. It's just as much about creativity, timing, endless preparation, testing, determination, planning, blood sweat and tear and plain ol' elbow grease.
        • by Gertlex (722812)

          I raced in the last race, actually (UMichigan).

          Was just saying that Nuon's teams aren't underdogs by any definition I can think of (prior to getting 2nd in 2009). :)

          • Well then! :) In Holland, often the budgets for stuff like this is too small to do anything significant so I think it's nice that they found a serious sponsor for once and get some attention. Besides, it's a good subject. I can't wait for electric vehicles to become a regular phenomena.. Never gonna buy a car or motorcycle on gas again.
    • When you know the Dutch weather, I am very surprised they're good at something related to solar energy.

  • It's famous for being slow, but I like underdogs.

    S car go! S car go!

  • Lets see them run their vehicles in the UK. Then we'll see the true value of solar.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Lets see them run their vehicles in the UK. Then we'll see the true value of solar.

      If the "true value" of anything were measured by how well it functions in the UK, the world would be pretty thoroughly screwed ;-).

    • by swb (14022)

      That is a bit harsh, but what problem exactly are the solar car racers attempting to solve? Solar is eons away from being a power source for cars anyone could actually use.

      Is there an application here for solar power or automobiles that's unique?

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Solar is eons away from being a power source for cars anyone could actually use.

        Not at all. What's the #1 complaint about electric cars we currently have? RANGE. Now your car doesn't have enough surface area to be powered entirely by solar, but if it could extend your range by 10%, or maybe tip the scales so you don't have to plug-in at the office (or the beach, the park, the store, etc) to make it home, it would be a huge plus. How about just float-charging batteries, or providing sufficient power tha

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          I think even that 10% is a pretty long ways off.

          When I watch footage of this stuff, I get visions of those films of early flying contraptions. That is where we are at. I think solar is the future, but I think we are quite far from practical usage in cars and homes.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        To me it's a bit like the space race. What has putting a man on the moon brought to mankind? A lot - but the moon rocks and pretty TV images and photos are not the most interesting part of it.

        These solar cars have quite some interesting challenges that I can think of as total layman. I think of the solar cells itself: getting more power from less surface area. New materials: stronger and lighter, while still easy machinable. Aerodynamics are an issue. The power train: converting light into motion efficient

        • by Rogerborg (306625)
          In theory. In practice, this race is entered by teams of penniless students who spunk most of their budget on shipping their piles of commodity parts half way around the world. R&D is great, but this is all D and no R.
  • Having just travelled the bulk of this route in relative automotive comfort I'm not sure I'd be happy to put myself in a shoebox and run the gauntlet of road trains and roos (although I saw more camels than kangas). Road trains shake even largish vehicles as they pass.
    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Any drop bears?

    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      Of course I thought of this about 3 seconds after I hit submit.
      What happens when to road trains pass each other going in opposite directions? There has to be some type of nasty vortex between the 2 of them.

      • Care to do the experiment and report back?
      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        It's called the Bernouli effect and it causes the trains to get sucked into each other. That's why you are supposed to slow down when going alongside another vehicle in the opposite direction. Too much speed + too little distance might slam you in the other one.
        • by bryan1945 (301828)

          Thanks for naming it, best I could come up with off the top of my head was 'vortex.' I've driven past semis, and I can feel some effects, but in the scaled up version I wasn't sure if it would be magnified or not. (I'm not a physics guy.)

  • This is cool from an engineering perspective, but solar panel tech is a drop in the energy density bucket. We need revolutionary leaps forward in science here. You can help, add your name to the White House petition. There are several other petitions you might find of interest as well...

    Direct NASA/DARPA-E to begin the next Manhattan project to invent a new domestic energy source that gets a 1,000 MPGE.
    http://wh.gov/ghD [wh.gov]

    Abolish the TSA, and use its monstrous budget to fund more sophisticated, less intrusi

  • I know ETS in Montreal has a solar car, where is it on that list? ETS itself says they'll be there.

    http://www.etsmtl.ca/nouvelles/2011/Voiture-solaire [etsmtl.ca]

    http://translate.google.ca/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.etsmtl.ca%2Fnouvelles%2F2011%2FVoiture-solaire&act=url [google.ca]

    Anyways, I work 5 minutes from ETS, maybe I can drop by tomorrow and take a look.

  • We don't have dust devils in Australia [wikipedia.org].
    • by lazybeam (162300)

      I assumed a "dust devil" was something like the dunes migrating themselves over the highway, LOL. At least your link translates the term to the proper "willy-willy".

  • by jrifkin (100192) on Sunday October 02, 2011 @09:20PM (#37586812)

    This bears some resemblance to another competition, the 2011 Solar Decathalon, that just finished its week on the National Mall in Washington DC.

    Each team designed and built a 900+ square foot energy efficient home over the past two years, and then shipped them to DC to display them for the week.

    It was sponsored by the Department of Energy. Nineteen universities participated; 15 from the US and 4 from other countries; Canada, Belgium, New Zealand (the third place winner) and China.

    You can see more about it here, http://www.solardecathlon.gov./ [www.solardecathlon.gov]

    • Small correction, the 2011 Solar Decathlon was held in West Potomac Park and not the National Mall (previous years were on the National Mall). This will be the last year it is held in the D.C. area apparently.
  • In the Global Green Challenge 2009 (sister event), Simon Hackett drove a world record distance of 501km. You can read about it on the internode blog [on.net]. Internode are sponsoring [on.net] the World Solar Challenge this year, but no Tesla :(.
  • Total yield: 15.79 MWh

    How'm I doing?

  • Some of my college buddies are on the CalSol team, best of luck to them :)
  • by grimsnaggle (1320777) on Monday October 03, 2011 @02:01AM (#37587644)

    I am the previous captain of the Stanford team and will be following the team across the outback again this year as a groupie. Racing itself is arguably the least important part of the overall race effort. While it allows you to choose winners and losers, on its own it doesn't contribute much to the overall solar car team experience. The race is only a few days long, but the effort to get there takes years.

    To all of you criticizing the value of solar cars: The point of solar racing isn't to prove that solar cars are a viable mode of transportation. It's to be an extreme engineering exercise for students. Through it they learn project management, budget management, marketing, engineering optimization, teamwork, and real-world design skills. It takes an immense amount of thinking and excellent execution to build a car that weighs a few hundred pounds that can cruise down the freeway at 65 mph all day long on the power of a toaster and that doesn't break after bumping through the desert for thousands of miles.

    For what it's worth, Tesla Motors was born out of the Stanford solar car team. Their first battery pack was made in our shop years ago as part of JB's retrofit of his old Porsche. Mission Motors owes quite a bit of its heritage to solar car racing as well, with its founders coming from the Stanford and Yale teams.

    If any of you are in the SF bay area, I encourage you to come take a look at one of these cars in person. Our latest entry, Xenith, will be back on campus in January and we enjoy hosting visitors. Just send an email through the form on the Stanford Solar Car Project website [stanford.edu].

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      The first year, yes. Fess up, you just used last year's car and shaved another quarter mm off the GRP, right?
    • Hey, I'm a member of the solar car team from University of Toronto, we're also racing this year. Were you around for the 2007 WSC?

      Unfortunately, I can't go to the race personally. You're lucky that you get to go as an alumni. Good luck to you guys! Say hi to the UofT team if you see them, they're a friendly bunch. :) (maybe a little disgruntled from the work and lack of sleep)

      • by ender06 (913978)
        Hey Tesla Tank, I raced on the Michigan team in the 2007 WSC, were you there?

        I'd love to go back to Australia and follow the race...
        • No, I joined after the 2007 race. But I've heard all the stories from the previous team members.

          Yeah it would be amazing to go to the WSC, but unfortunately, other things get in the way. :(

          Are you still in touch with the Michigan team?

  • by lewko (195646) on Monday October 03, 2011 @02:13AM (#37587686) Homepage

    Or three, if it's cloudy.

  • "but as the differences among the top teams and their cars are very, very small it's impossible to say in advance"

    So *that's* why they run the race?

    Huh.

  • "When you look at our car, you think that the only technology on it is the solar panels, but that's definitely not the case," said team manager Emil Hewage. "This car actually drives and thinks at the same time. It requires masses and masses of data to run the car properly." Video and photos http://j.mp/rdvmgJ [j.mp].

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