UMSolar: Day 5

Submitted by Bronco648 on October 20th, 2011 at 9:41 AM

World Solar Challenge - Day5

Iconic wind mill, so symbolic of the Australian outback, towers over Glen Dambo, a control stop where the team spends the night on day four of the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.

University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind.  At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6.  It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.

Cole Witte works on fixing the problem after University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. Today was supposed to be the day of a big push on the side of the U-M’s team that planned on overtaking Nuna 6 and maybe even getting close to the #1 Tokai University’s Challenger. Challenger was 30 minutes ahead of both Nuna 6 and Quantum at the end of the previous day.  At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6.  It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.

Gerald Chang (left) and Cole Witte work on fixing the problem after University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. Today was supposed to be the day of a big push on the side of the U-M’s team that planned on overtaking Nuna 6 and maybe even getting close to the #1 Tokai University’s Challenger. Challenger was 30 minutes ahead of both Nuna 6 and Quantum at the end of the previous day. At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6. It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.

A quiet, sad and frustrated but also somehow relaxed mood spreads over the U-M solar car team as they realize their dream of the 1st place at the World Solar Challenge may be unreachable this year due to broken faring (wheel cover) on the car. Daily team meeting. Day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.

U-M solar car is getting close to the finish line in Adelaide after it crossed Australian continent in 5 days. It’s Thursday, October 20th and the last day of the World Solar Challenge race.

U-M solar car approaches the end of the timed route outside of Adelaide in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia on Thursday, October 20, 2011.

U-M solar car team members celebrate winning the third place in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia as Rachel Kramer touches the head of the driver Ryan Mazur just outside of Adelaide.  Formal crossing of the finish line will be the next day.

A faring that fell off the U-M solar car hit the cockpit near the driver’s head leaving a mark there on the second-to-last day of the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The accident effectively ruined the U-M solar car team’s chances to win gold in the race.

After five days on the road, U-M solar car team members celebrate winning the third place in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia. The end of the timed route was just outside of Adelaide on Thursday, October 20, 2011. It’s a bitter-sweet day for the team who have come third in four WSC races before. This year, the team was really hoping to win. Formal crossing of the finish line will be the next day.

After 5 days, 1800 miles, brush fires, dust storms, heavy winds, rain, and extreme temperature swings, Quantum finished 3rd in the Veolia World Solar Challenge.

It was an extremely close race, as for 3 days we kept pace with 1st place Tokai, and 2nd place Nuon. To put this in perspective, we camped out within 1 KM of Nuon 3 nights in a row. Unfortunately, heavy cross winds caused technical issues with the fairing mechanism, requiring repairs on the side of the road. Tokai and Nuon, spent zero time for roadside repairs, which was a key factor in the race outcome.

Further followup, regarding the race outcome, will be posted in the coming days.

We look forward to celebrating in Victoria Square with the other top teams tomorrow morning. We are all proud of our accomplishments, especially knowing that we are the first US team to win 2 consecutive top 3 finishes.

Go Blue!

Through a smoldering brush fire, past wind-shearing road trains, across the Australian continent, the University of Michigan’s Quantum was the first American car to finish the World Solar Challenge today. The Solar Car team placed third overall in the international competition.

No other U.S. team has had back-to-back top-three World Solar Challenge finishes.

After driving for 35 hours and 33 minutes over five days, the U-M team crossed the end-of-timing line in Angle Vale, South Australia at 3:55 p.m. race time (2:25 a.m. U.S. ET). They are spending the night there. In the morning they will drive the remaining 20 miles to the ceremonial finish line in Adelaide’s Victoria Square. [Ed. - similar to the Tour de France, no racing on the last day]

“It was an incredibly close race, especially due to the unexpected elements such as the brush fire which delayed the race, dust storms, major cloud cover at the end of the race, and the ultra reliable cars of Nuon and Tokai,” said Chris Hilger, the team’s business director.

With an average speed of 56 mph, Japan’s Tokai University finished first. The Netherlands’ Nuon took second.

U-M’s Quantum, which averaged 52 mph, kept pace with the leaders for the first day, said Santosh Kumar, the team’s head strategist and engineering director.

On the second day, officials stopped the race because of a brush fire. All three teams had a unique mid-race opportunity to fully charge their batteries. When they hit the road again on Day 3, brush was still smoking on the side of the road. Clouds and rain were forecast, and the team drove conservatively to prepare for it, Kumar said. But Tokai didn’t. They extended their lead.

“At the beginning of the fourth day, we launched a counter attack, hurtling down the Stuart Highway at 64 mph attempting to reel Tokai in,” Kumar said.

The team was just three minutes from overtaking the second place Nuon when a strong gust of wind ripped the right wheel fairing from the chassis. The students made roadside repairs while the other two teams pulled ahead. By the time they were back on the Stuart Highway, though, Michigan was 30 minutes behind the leading teams.

En route to the next control stop, “bad luck hit Quantum again with just the wrong combination of cross winds and road train wakes to pull the (fairing) off a second time,” race manager Rachel Kramer wrote in a guest blog post on Life @ Michigan.

A road train is a long tractor-trailer, and in this year’s race, teams had to contend with several carrying wide loads.

“We never gave up the chase,” Kumar said.

The team “crawled” across the finish, according to their final race tweet. They had emptied their battery trying.

“We’re really proud,” said Caitlin Sadler, the team’s head of public relations. “We built a great car. They raced an amazing race and they’ve really held up the tradition.”

U-M placed third in the World Solar Challenge in 2009 as well. This is the fifth time in the race’s 20-year history that the U-M team has placed third. Reigning national champions, the team has finished first in the North American Solar Challenge three times in a row and six times total.

During the past two years of intense preparation, the team shaved 200 pounds off its 2009 car by weighing the vehicle bolt by bolt and streamlining nearly every part. They improved its aerodynamics by an estimated 30 percent. They tested in practice races across Michigan and in Australia. And they strategized with computer scientists and sailboat racers to come up with more accurate weather forecasting models.

So, congratulations to Tokai University on defending their 2009 Championship. And, congratulations to Nuon for a strong second place finish. While I'm sure the team is disppointed, there is no shame in finishing third to those two teams. Encountering a 'trash tornado', down under, seems to be par for the course this week. Plans are already being formulated for changes to Quantum and the foundations for the successor to Quantum. I plan to follow up with 'closing ceremonies' as well as shedding some light on the alums that have firmly planted the seeds of this program. A BIG thanks to Diane Thach, of UMSolar, who provided a lot of background info. Also another BIG thanks to Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M. He provided all of the images you've seen (and many you have not).

Thanks for reading and following along. I read through the comments so if you have questions, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer or get answers for you.

Comments

gbdub

October 20th, 2011 at 1:30 PM ^

It's really hard to tell. Given that the weather on the last day ended up better than expected (until the rain at the end) an aggressive strategy on day 4 may have paid off. I suspect it would have been a toss up between Nuon and Michigan for 2nd place - the two were very evenly matched. If "everything goes right" the top 3 cars probably all finish in the same hour (very, very close given the length of race).

Getting ahead of Tokai probably would have required a significant error on Tokai's part - their car seems to have been "just plain better" than Nuon and Michigan. The major suspected difference is solar cells that perform better when hot, a small weight advantage, and (possibly) a better motor.

Bronco648

October 20th, 2011 at 2:14 PM ^

I believe that Tokai Challenger is lighter than both Quantum and Nuna6. Additionally, they might have a one-off motor (PhD thesis) that's exceptionally effecient. I'm not sure sure about different solar cells (although, you may be right). I kept seeing chat references that lead me to believe all teams were using the same type of (less effecient) solar cells. I may be wrong.

The Bugle

October 20th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

Tokai's solar panels are different than the panels used by nuon and UM.  From the solarcar site discussion they had a more optimal effeciency at temperature than the other panels.  The possible shenanigans at play were that Panasonic made the panels -- and it was possible that they hand picked and shipped the best effeciency panels from the line.

 

gbdub

October 20th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

The Tokai cells are Sanyo HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) cells. Michigan, Nuon, and most other top teams used cells made by the US company SunPower.

At nominal temperature, the efficiency of the two cells is very close, with SunPower possibly being a bit better. However, the HIT cells lose less efficiency when they get hot (all silicon-based solar cells lose efficiency as they heat up). So when the cars are moving (and particularly when they're stationary) in direct sunlight, the solar cells heat up and produce less power - but the effect is smaller with HIT cells. The HIT cells thus have a "real-world" advantage.

The possible "shenanigans" are that a) Tokai's very close connection to large solar manufacturers may have allowed them to get "hand picked" cells and b) it's rumored that Sanyo is typically unwilling to sell bare cells (i.e. not pre-assembled into commercial installations) outside Japan for fear of other manufacturers stealing their tech. Given the small time separation, Tokai's cells don't need to be that much better to explain the results.

The guy you saw talking about the cells in the blog was Brian Ignaut, the '07 project manager. He also was the point man for the cell procurement that year and now works in the solar industry. He knows enough about solar cells that it's dangerous to bring them up if you have any near-term time committments.

The Bugle

October 21st, 2011 at 2:14 AM ^

Thanks for the corrections. I spent enough time following the discussion that I have enough knowledge to BS my way...but not enough to really teach anything of note. It seems like they had the upper hand in tech, and no one else really stood a chance. Do you think Quantum would have taken Nuon without the unscheduled stop?

For the record I wasn't referring to any cruel or evil shenanigans. Which would make them not shenanigans at all really...

Bronco648

October 20th, 2011 at 11:05 AM ^

Link to the latest video from Day5: here

@M-Dog: My guess is that they would not have been able to pass Nuon. While they would have been much closer, they seemed to have less battery power, on the last day, than Nuon (and Tokai). However, they ran conservatively given their postion. So, we may never know. The people that can best answer that question are currently in Australia, unfortunately.

@g_reaper3 & H2V:

Tokai Challenger:

Tokai Challenger

Tokai Challenger

Nuon Nuna6

Nuon Nun6

As you can see, the shapes are similar but there's a lot of unseen stuff that's different, too. There is one car with a tricycle layout but the single wheel is in front. Most use the tricycle layout because there's less drag and it's (pretty) stable.

@MGoAero

LOL, I believe that's Troy Halm. He's prominently featured in the video (see link above). =D

saveferris

October 20th, 2011 at 1:41 PM ^

Plans are already being formulated for changes to Quantum and the foundations for the successor to Quantum.

I'll make the first suggestion. More screws for mounting the wheel fairings to the vehicle structure. We'll beat that wind yet!

Nice job team, 3rd in the world is still pretty good. Look forward to the day when Michigan finishes first in this competition. Go Blue.

Bronco648

October 20th, 2011 at 2:07 PM ^

It's interesting that it was an interior fairing that blew off. I'm guessing if it was an exterior one, that the fix would have taken less time (easier to access). I have some knowledge of how those fairings work. I don't think they need more fasteners, I think they simply require some sort of limiter so that they won't swing open so far.

Bronco648

October 21st, 2011 at 9:30 AM ^

@CC: I'm not sure who the actual designer is/was. However, I believe he's coming back to design the 2013 car. The designs of the cars are pretty much dictated by how a solar car works, what equipment is required to propel it and what is most efficient thru the air. If you look back thru the previous solar cars, that UM has produced, you'll see the evolution of the design. Here's a link to UMSolar's team history: LINK

macdaddy

October 20th, 2011 at 10:54 PM ^

I LOVE that we're good at this. Solid showing in spite of the faring situation. It would be awesome to win this thing one day. 

 

Where's the Spartymobile? Yeah, that's what I thought.