UM Solar - WSC - Day 3

Submitted by Bronco648 on October 8th, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Well, I have to apologize. It would seem that there's been almost a media blackout for this version of the WSC. Previously, I could rely on team members and former team members to post to open chat sites. In this manner, I could glean information about how the car was running, strategy and their thoughts about the competition. This year is totally different. There are chat sites and they're populated with former team members (amongst others) but there are no current team members participating. So, everyone is totally in the dark about strategy, problems and general race conditions. This leads to lots of speculation but very little concrete information.

Unfortunately, Generation (UM Solar) dropped to 6th place yeaterday being passed by Indupol One (Punch Powertrain). They are about 3.5 hours behind the lead car, which remains, Nuna7. The top 4 remain static, with only the time gaps being dynamic.; Nuna7 (Team Nuon), Tokai Challenger (Tokai University), RED (Team Twente) and Luminos (Stanford University).

Given that Generation is more than two hours behind third place, it's looking pretty grim for a podium finish, this year. However, strange things happen when you're on the cutting edge of technology and this race is far from over.

Position Team Arrival Control Stop Distance Travelled
1 #3 Nuna7 12:53 Kulgera 1766 Kms
2 #1 Tokai Challenger 13:13 Kulgera 1766 Kms
3 #21 RED 14:21 Kulgera 1766 Kms
4 #16 Luminos 15:06 Kulgera 1766 Kms
5 #8 Indupol One 16:17 Kulgera 1766 Kms
6 #2 Generation 16:32 Kulgera 1766 Kms









October 8th, 2013 at 11:34 AM ^ that Generation is likely to finish behind Stanford. So, UM Solar Car's claim to be the top North American team/car won't be sustainable if they can't catch up. They were 5 min behind Stanford at the end of day 2 and at the end of day 3 are 86 min behind.

Standings are available here.

To echo the OP, the team is clearly struggling with its communication strategy. Besides its technical and driving successes, their media efforts have always been a hallmark. Not so much for this race.


October 8th, 2013 at 12:15 PM ^

The good news: Generation is a well designed, well built car and has been operating reliably. This is a testament to the team's continued engineering prowess and thorough testing.

The bad news: Every team ahead of Michigan is running superior solar cells. Not sure how much I can get into* but it sounds like it was a scheduling issue. A limited number of teams were able to get these newer cells in time, Michigan wasn't.

So effectively Michigan is fighting an uphill battle here and has to hope for some wrenches to be thrown in the race.

As for "best Solar Car in North America", that title (which, to be fair, Michigan invented) is based on having by far the most wins in the premiere North American solar races. The outcome of this event won't really change that either way. Additionally, the rules for the North American race are different with regard to solar cells - Michigan and Stanford will be on a level playing field in that regard next summer, and I strongly suspect that, with equivalent solar cells, Generation is a significantly faster car than Luminos.

*Santy can yell at me if I'm out of line, but in seriousness everyone who can affect the outcome of this race already knows this.


October 8th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

Hello, so you probably know that I spent 3 days in Darwin. I hung out with the team a lot but I also spent a good amount of time with Stanford and checking out their car. Okay, they do have better cells, but teams across the atlantic were able to get them just fine. Stanford custom made their their own drivetrain, which they claim is better than the CSIRO that Michigan runs, which IMHO is really cool. 

Overall I think their car is well put together, their team has a good blend of talent and experience. They put just as many test miles on their car as we did. I personally think it's a nicer looking car than generation having seen both cars up close. They have a different design philosphy from us, but I think they executed theirs better. 

I think give them the same cells, Generation might have a better shot, but I think Stanford will have the edge. Also They will always have the best cells in the race. That's just the way it always has been since the rule change to full silicon. I had no problems accepting that fact when Quantum was designed. I knew we had to make up the gap in aero and weight and by golly we did.

In my book, if Stanford beats us in WSC 2013 then they are the best team in America. Having history on your side is nice, but the bottom line is you're only as good as your last race, man. My heart goes out to the men and women in Yellow, but I'm gonna give credit where credit is due.



October 8th, 2013 at 1:18 PM ^

Well, I never said the scheduling issues weren't poorly self-imposed. Of course, I'm on record as a fan of "approved cell lists" a la ASC so there's that - I don't like that WSC's gone from "unlimited cell technology" to "really arbitrary poorly defined limit on cell technology that changes every race depending on what wacky thing Nuon shows up with that we'd feel just too gee golly bad about not letting them use even if it was banned last time". That's referencing many things that no one on this blog cares about so I'll stop ;)

While it may be true that Stanford executed their design philosophy better (there are several things I'd have done differently aero-wise on Generation), it's a worse design philosophy from a performance standpoint. They can hem and haw about driver safety all they want, but I'd be surprised if they didn't go the asymmetric route on their next car assuming the rules don't explicitly ban it.

Stanford's not the same team they were 6 years ago, but I still can't shake the feeling that no matter how good they look, they're always on the ragged edge of disaster. Their array stand at least makes me believe they've got a little of that still in them.


October 8th, 2013 at 1:42 PM ^

...was won with Quantum, not Generation. So by any honest measure, if Stanford continues to outpace Michigan in the WSC, they will deserve the unofficial title of "best solar car in North America". And that's pretty disappointing because it's Stanford and they win pretty much everything else.


October 8th, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

I believe the official website title was "America's #1 Solar Car Team" which is a title I don't think one race can give to Stanford, necessarily. It would be like the Lions winning the Super Bowl and saying it makes them "The NFL's Most Successful Franchise". If it's "All time most successful solar car program in the Western Hemisphere" then it's Michigan by a mile.

Additionally, the big trophy for the North American race is still at Michigan, and will be until someone beats Michigan in the American Solar Challenge. Texas A&M don't get to call themselves National Champions for beating 'Bama in the regular season, after all.

Of course, I wasn't super happy that Michigan added that banner to the website anyway, seemed to be asking for trouble. So I'd be fine with seeing it go. And then kicking ass next summer.


October 8th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

gbdub, santy & MGoShoe - I'm pretty sure you're all former team members, yes? I would certainly like to hear technical aspects of the current, and former, car(s). So, please enlighten me (us). Thanks.

Another thing that seems to be very interesting this year is the removeable concentrators on Nuna7. I think UM developed the concentrator, right? It's interesting to see it put to this type of use.



October 8th, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

I can't speak too much to the current car, Santy is a better source for that.

Nuon's concentrators are relatively inexpensive, commercial off the shelf units (made for home power production) that they only deploy at control stops. It's actually questionable how much real benefit they get from them - in perfect conditions they are fantastic, but in the real world they are heavy, used infrequently, and need to be pointed perfectly in clear skies to work. They probably don't hurt, but they may not be a huge advantage.

Our best guess is that Nuon bought them because their car can't quite fit the maximum allowed solar cell area on their upper surface, so they needed a way to use the "extra" cells. (Continuum in 2007 had a little "hat" of solar cells for the canopy that was deployed at control stops for exactly this reason).  

Michigan in 2007 designed from scratch a system of movable concentrators that tracked the sun from the car while it was in motion. They were finicky and heavy though - so again, real world results were not as good as theory. It was well into the race before we got them working well. We probably could have refined them, but the rules after 2007 explicitly banned arrays that moved or "reconfigured" while the car was in motion. 2009's Infinium had fixed concentrators built into the lower surface that were used only when stopped. I think they ended up being too heavy to be worth it, however. (Infinium is another car where Santy has better info than I, in all likelihood).

WSC's rules for deployable arrays like Nuon's concentrators are a bit vague and shifting. The best strategy seems to be "show up with something weird that's beneficial but not necessary and hope you can talk the officials into letting you use it". Nuon has been the experts at that strategy for several years.

Michigan Arrogance

October 8th, 2013 at 7:06 PM ^

This might as well be asked here:

Hypothetically speaking, if I were a high school teacher and wanted to start a solar car program at my school, what avenues would I persue to get materials, train students, etc?

I'm wondering how I could get enough solar cells to fit onto a car, a battery set that could be charged, etc for reasonable proces. Are flexible cells cost prohibitive? are there resources that the M solar car team provides for potential high school teams? are there high school races?