UM Solar - ASC - Day 5

Submitted by Bronco648 on July 19th, 2012 at 9:19 AM

An interesting day yesterday where the rich (Quantum) got richer and the rest fell further back. Quantum had a short run into Normal thanks to pushing on to Logansport, IN the previous day. This allowed them to get to the Stage Stop and recharge batteries while other teams fought the weather and heat, slowing them considerably. Teams that arrived late, in Normal, didn't have much of a chance to charge as the weather closed in. Minnesota suffered some battery/heat issues while Illinois State had a battery melt down (after it was out of the car - we'll get to that in a moment). After some serious overnight storms, in northen Illinois, the day looks clear for the run to La Crosse, WI. Quantum holds over a seven (7) hour lead while the next four competitors are within five (5) hours of each other.

Quantum pulling a charge after arrving, @ 1:13 EDT, in Normal, IL.

Iowa State rolled in 1 hour and 45 minutes later.


CalSol (Berkeley) was third in at 5:02 EDT.


While other teams continue to roll in, Quuantum continues charging.

UM Solar

Images, above, courtesy of Ethan Lardner

Charles (Chuck) S. Hutchins has had a consistent presence on the U of M Solar Car Team for 22 years. Accompanying the Team on every race since the running of Maize and Blue in 1993, Chuck has maintained cultural and technical continuity that has motivated generations of Wolverines working in Ann Arbor. Chuck’s experience as an engineer (BSE MEAM ’57) and as an entrepreneur (co-founder of Manufacturing Data Systems Inc.) have proved priceless in the development of the 2011 vehicle, Quantum.

Chuck Hutchins

Thanks Chuck! Thanks a lot!

Stage 3 Board (after Stage Close):

Stage 3 Board

Images, above, courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri

An overnight battery malfunction may knock Illinois State out of the ASC: LINK Let's hope Illinois State can figure out a way to continue.

It looks like a really nice morning in Normal. CalSol is charging. Quantum lurks in the background, also charging. Skies to the northwest look good.


Results after the Normal Stage Stop:

Team # and Name Ann Arbor Start 7/17 Kalamazoo Arrival 7/17 Normal Finish 7/18 Penalty Time Stage 3 Elapsed Time
2 – Michigan 09:00:00 13:02:09 13:14:15 00:12:00 12:26:15
9 – Iowa State 09:03:00 13:29:33 14:57:33 00:10:00 14:02:33
254 – CalSol 09:04:00 15:08:08 17:02:08 00:02:00 16:04:08
256 – Oregon State 09:05:00 14:30:12 17:18:44 00:12:00 16:30:44
32 – Principia 09:02:00 14:15:17 17:57:00 00:15:00 17:12:00
35 – Minnesota 09:01:00 13:35:20 Trailer 04:01:03 22:01:03
20 – Western Michigan 09:06:00 14:26:34 Trailer 06:18:45 24:18:45
55 – Montreal 09:05:00   Trailer 10:46:39 28:46:39
5 – Illinois State 09:06:00   Trailer 11:33:27 29:33:27
28 – New Paltz 09:07:00   Trailer 12:12:09 30:12:09
4 – MIT 09:09:00 14:22:40 Trailer 21:29:33 39:29:33

Quantum's penalites involve fan vehicles coming too close to the race cars or impeding support vehicles and/or traffic. I am unsure of the penalites for the other teams but wouldn't be surprised if they were for something similar.

A little hardware for winning Stage 3:


I'll do my best to keep everyone updated during the day. Go Quantum!

UM Solar Team Web Site: LINK

American Solar Challenge Web Site: LINK

UPDATE: Hello Wisconsin!

UM Solar



July 19th, 2012 at 10:37 AM ^

Why would it be against the rules for Illinois State to swap out batteries? High power packs burn up on the regular. That's to be expected in ANY electric car sooner or later. A little tiny mis-manufacture in one of the cells is all it takes.


July 19th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

It might simply be against the rules but I'm checking on that now.

EDIT: Former Team member Maggie Hayes was kind enough to explain:

The teams cannot change out a battery mid-race, in theory they could remove a damaged module, but they cannot add anything new to the pack that they didn't start the race with. I don't know the exact wording of the rules, but messing with batteries is usually the biggest no-no in the whole competition. In 2005 we had a module malfunction, and we weren't able to replace it with a new one, but we took it out completely and were better off.

More info from another former Team member, Steve H.:

Yeah, replacing battery modules is pretty heavily penalized. Removing modules not so much, I believe. But if you remove a module, then you run into issues with your motor controller and not having a high enough voltage to overcome back EMF.

In WSC '13 it seems like they aren't going to allow replacing of battery modules. Exact penalty for ASC is this: Replacement of Batteries: Decisions to exchange (or externally recharge – see Reg. 8.7.I) all or part of a battery must be communicated formally to the team’s Observer or an Inspector. The penalty will be computed as follows:

Time penalty (minutes) = 480 × (n+S) / N

n = number of replacement modules
S = sum of all modules previously replaced
N = total number of modules in solar car battery pack  


July 19th, 2012 at 12:00 PM ^

I can understand if your solar array or regenerative braking aren't working right that a penalty must be assessed because the team is trying to gain a competitive advantage. But what if the car gets struck by lighting or something, and it fries a pack. Teams should be allowed to replace the damaged module with one charged only to the level that those on the array are charged without penalty. If a rock hits a car, they can replace the damaged panels.


July 19th, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

The problem is the "only charged to the level they were at when damaged" part would be nearly possible to measure and enforce. Also, batteries are most frequently damaged by over or under charging, so swapping in that condition would be dangerous (and would encourage teams to be reckless with battery safety). Finally, the batteries are heavily scrutinized before the race for safety and regulation adherence. The spares are not, so the potential for misbehavior or a safety hazard needs to be eliminated.

Besides all that, being reliable is part of the challenge.


July 19th, 2012 at 2:50 PM ^

I used to do quite a bit of hobby/garage robotics back in the day, on a shoestring budget, because that was all I had. You'd think everything was hunky-dory after running your robot through months of testing, then you'd go to an event, and in one go, the batteries were melty-goodness. Something in them had been poorly manufactured and it just took one wrong bump, jostle, or change in the power flow they were used to to break it.

In those competitions, we could swap out our batteries and go again. IT was the things we b uilt ourselves that we were responsible for.

Naked Bootlegger

July 19th, 2012 at 11:22 AM ^

Currently cloudy weather in Madison will not damper my enthusiasm today.  I'm sure UM's strategy team has things under control to deal with decreased solar insolation.

I'll see Quantum at Reddan Park in Verona, WI today.   My son and I may also just hang out along the road north of Verona to watch and cheer (big block M will be flying!).   And I promise not to induce a fan interference penalty today.

I will also try to take a picture of UM solar car super-stalker Furqan Nazeeri.   #Team2_lives!