October 11, 2013
Stanford Places Fourth in 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
by Wesley Ford
After five days of racing 3000 kilometers (1864 miles) across the Australian Outback the Stanford Solar Car Project placed fourth in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This year’s team finished ahead of all other American teams and completed the challenge with the best finish in Stanford’s two decade history of international solar car racing. The team also came in as the top competitor among undergraduate teams and the top competitor among teams with full time students.
Stanford’s fourth place finish was the culmination of two years of dedicated work by volunteer students at Stanford University. The team began designing our car in 2012 with the goal of building the most reliable, yet efficient, vehicle possible. Today, Luminos, Stanford’s 2013 solar car, has over 10,000km on its odometer, and the vehicle crossed the entire Outback with zero component failures.
Static & Dynamic Scrutineering
Before the competitors in the 2013 race set out from the coastal city of Darwin, all teams had to complete a series of rule compliance and safety checks. The process, called scrutineering, requires all teams to allow race officials to inspect their vehicles before the race begins during a four hour inspection session. Event officials inspect everything from driver vision to brake lights. Luminos passed all stages of static scrutineering on the first try, except for a rear-vision camera problem that was solved with a quick software fix.
Upon completion of static scrutineering, Luminos underwent dynamic scrutineering – including a braking test and “flying lap” around the track to determine starting position in the race. With a lap time of 2:07 around the Hidden Valley Raceway, Luminos was the third car at the starting line.
The 2013 race began at the Parliament House in Darwin on the northern coast of Australia. Teams were released at the starting line with a one minute gap between teams. Day 1 began with a frenzy of teams attempting to claim a competitive position in the race. In the first hours of the race Stanford exchanged positions with the Nuon Solar Team and the University of Michigan Solar Car Team multiple times, passed the entire Michelin Cruiser Class field, and passed a number of other solar cars broken down on the side of the road. Luminos arrived at the first control point of the race (the city of Katherine) in 3rd place! The rest of the day was spent in a tense race between Stanford and Michigan – culminating in camping on the side of the road just a few hundred yards from our Ann Arbor rivals.
Day 2 was an equally close race between Luminos and Generation, Michigan’s solar car. Just a few kilometers away from each other, our teams sent convoy vehicles to spy on the speed of each other. After the Tennant Creek control point, we opened the gap with our arch-rivals and steadily pulled away over the course of the next few days.
Day 3 was significantly more mellow, with no teams in direct sight. We continued along at a steady pace until 5pm without incident. By the end of day 3 our team still followed Nuon (Netherlands), Tokai (Japan), and Twente (Netherlands).
Day 4 held the strongest winds of the race with reports of gusts close to 100kph. While other teams struggled to keep their cars driving safely and on the road our drivers reported that the car was extraordinarily stable and “handled the winds like a dream.” During the heavy winds one of our competitors flipped their car, and the University of Michigan team also crashed their car in the gusty wind. Winds fortunately were primarily at our tail, and our weather forecasts predicted that the winds would reverse direction the next day. Thus, we spent the majority of the day with the pedal to the metal (rather, to the carbon fiber), and we were only limited by the top speed of our motors. We at times cruised around 95-100kph (59mph- 62mph), speeds faster than we are allowed to drive on the 55mph limited roads in our United States testing areas.
Our team had seen that Twente, the team ahead of us, had previously spent long nights working on their car, so we suspected that Twente could be prone to further stress and breakdowns. With Twente close ahead the team chose to diverge from our theoretically ideal cruising speed in order to put additional pressure on Twente hoping they would make further mistakes. The danger with this strategy was that we would have an undercharged pack on the last day of racing. However, our team knew that the next competitors behind us were far away, so we were willing to accept the risk in order to possibly pressure Twente into making suboptimal racing decisions on the last day of racing. Later in the day Solar Team Twente had at least two break downs, and our team continued gain on Twente. By the end of day 4 our team had closed the 45 minute gap to Twente to just six minutes.
Day 5 began with both a headwind and more rain than our weather models predicted before the race began. Our team knew that we were close to Twente, and we wanted to be right behind Twente if they broke down due to additional mechanical problems or rain damaging their electronics on the last day of racing. We chased patches of sun and followed Twente to the Port Augusta control point. However, midday rain and a low battery pack charge in Luminos allowed Twente to defend third place in the afternoon. Twente ended up driving an apparently problem-free last day of racing, so our team didn’t have an opportunity to close the final gap and pass Twente. Luminos had expended a large amount of battery pack energy attempting to catch Twente, so we ended up driving much of the last day at 50kph. We reached the official end of timing just outside of Adelaide at 4:31pm securing our standing in fourth place after crossing the continent on the power of the sun. Twente, Tokai, Sunswift alumni and surprise SSCP alumni were there to greet us as we celebrated Luminos’s 2013 finish.
The next day we drove the car across the ceremonial finish line to join Nuon, Tokai, and Twente at Hindemarsh Square. Nuon thought ahead to make up for the lack of the traditional fountain at the finish line (past races have finished in Victoria Square fountain which was under construction this year). As soon as we completed our finish line photo-op, we found ourselves tackled and thrown into the three kiddie-pools they had filled up nearby. It was the proper finish of a solar car race. The rest of the day was spent asking and answering questions about cars, swapping shirts with other teams, cheering on other arriving teams, and otherwise relishing the joy of successfully completing the race.
Our team is incredibly grateful for the support of Stanford University, our sponsors, our alumni, and everybody else who has made possible our success as the highest-placing team run by undergraduates in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge!
- Place: 4th
- Average Speed: 75.86 kph
- Time to Finish: 39.52 hours
- Top Speed: 105 kph (reached while passing Generation)
- Ending State-Of-Charge: 2%
State of Charge (SOC) is in many ways the most important single number to a solar car team on a race. Some things worth noting on the above plot are:
- Array stand charging in the morning (before 8am) and the evening (after 5pm) provide astounding amounts of energy.
- At approximately 90% SOC, battery charging enters constant-voltage mode, reducing the power into the battery pack. Charging up to this point during the race should be avoided.
- Worse weather than expected on day 5 caused our SOC to drop extremely quickly after Port Augusta.
- Although we experienced significant battery drain on day 4 (passing Coober Pedy and Glendambo), the car covered over 700km in one day due to strong tailwinds. A shift to strong headwinds the next day provided incentive to cover as much ground as possible.
Receiving less array power than forecasted on the last day, we drove at the minimum 50 kph in order to improve efficiency. We crossed the finish line with 2% SOC, arriving at the end of timing thanks to a break in the clouds.
Array performance is clearly reduced on the first day in trees, and the last day in bad weather between Port Augusta and Adelaide.
(This post includes text and media from Max, Anna, and Wesley)
October 9, 2013
The Final Sprint
Hello again from the very-unofficial impromptu SSCP media team. Today was an extremely exciting day of racing, and tomorrow should be better still.
Stanford started the day like every race day so far – on top of their game, moving quickly, and generally running like a well oiled machine. Our car and race team is rapidly nearing 10,000 km of operation, so at this point things like getting the car down from the charging stand and ready to race are a 3-minute well-choreographed work of art. It looks very chaotic to the untrained eye, but trust me – it’s a beautiful sight to see our race team operating at this level.
Today was a very good day for our team. We made no mistakes, and drove at our fastest daily average speed our team may have ever recorded. This was enabled by an extremely powerful tailwind that has been blowing us straight down the Stuart Highway toward Adelaide – winds that have been blowing steadily at nearly 40km/h at times and gusting up to 100km/h.
The bright sunshine and stiff tailwind isn’t just helping us, though – it’s pushing our competitors along as well. That said, there are large differences in how every car handles the heavy winds, and due to the stability of our car and robustness of our shell, we managed to slowly reel in Solar Team Twente all day long.
We started the day nearly 45 minutes behind Twente, and finished the day just 7 minutes behind. They had some aerodynamic/mechanical problems before reaching the control stop in Glendambo – one of their very light but very thin and fragile rear fairings was damaged by the strong crosswind, so they removed it and drove 20km or more without that fairing. This was both time on the side of the road for their team and a large aerodynamic drag penalty, and this allowed us to gain quite a bit of ground. Our team is feeling extremely good right now about making the goal of spending zero time on the side of the road for problems of any sort one of our very highest priorities this cycle – it paid off in a big way today, by avoiding situations exactly of that nature even in very extreme conditions.
Tomorrow should be the most exciting day in all of Stanford Solar Car Project’s nearly 25 year history, as we race a tight race against an excellent team for the honor of a podium finish in the World Solar Challenge. Wish us luck.
October 8, 2013
Hello from Marla, South Australia, about 1950km from Darwin. The team rolled by here just minutes ago.
The team has been too busy running an efficient race to devote much time to any media besides the team twitter. I’m currently traveling across the outback with three recruiters from Google [x], who have come to the race to poach some of the world’s best and brightest engineering talent. We’ll be following the convoy for the rest of the race, so we can provide a few updates on the team’s progress and the status of other teams.
We’ve had great success so far. Our track lap time of 2:07 (our team’s fastest ever) driven by Ian Girard put us in third pole position at the start of the race in Darwin. This allowed us to avoid a ton of solar car convoy traffic coming out of the city on Sunday morning, giving us a big advantage over some of our competitors who were buried back in the fray.
The first day of racing was very exciting for the team. Because of the significant change in rules from WSC 2011, we had nearly no sense of how fast other teams would be going. Our car was well modeled and we knew exactly how fast we needed to go for optimum efficiency – but we had no idea where in the pack that would put us. As it turns out, we both overestimated the performance of some of our competitors and underestimated the performance of our own car in our models. Pulling into the first control stop in Katherine, we found ourselves in 4th place, behind Tokai (last year’s winner) and the two dutch teams, Nuon and Twente. All three are teams that in past races we never would have seen at a control stop, yet now we found ourselves waiting out the required 30 minutes right beside them.
The second day of racing was also very tense due to our trading blows with Michigan for most of the day. Michigan is a team we had our eyes on this year, being our only direct rival in the challenge class from the USA. It took them a while to catch up to us from their lower grid position, but once they did, our cruise speeds turned out to be about the same, and our teams passed each other back and forth three or four times over the course of the day. We ended up with a bit of an edge on them at the end of the race day, but we were still so close that our teams camped less than 100m from each other that night.
Race day 3 was much less tense, but our team has kept up the energy and operational efficiency that have propelled our successful run so far. After waking up before dawn and completing our morning charge with Michigan just a stone’s throw behind us, we took off at a higher cruise speed than we thought would be possible due to the unexpectedly good array performance we were seeing as well as a stiff tailwind that had begun to kick up. We were hoping that we would stay ahead of Michigan but also hoping that it would still be tight and tense, since being within 1km of another team on the start of the third race day usually means that the race is bound to be extremely close all the way up to our arrival in Adelaide. For reasons unknown to us, however, Michigan fell significantly behind early in that day, and we’ve had a clear shot down the highway ever since. They do seem to have fixed their issues and are gaining ground, so we won’t be lifting the hammer anytime soon.
Our team have been doing a remarkable job of running a tight and fast race with no mistakes. This isn’t just the team, however – we’ve had some very generous help on our way across the outback. We’d like to thank the observers and other race officials for all of their work in getting this whole organization down the highway safely. Our team is also extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Girard for following our team across the Red Centre and providing us with extremely delicious food, which is about as important to keeping our team running as sunlight is to our car. We’d also like to thank their friend David (an Outback tour leader and guider instructor) and Josh (a meteorologist from Weatherzone), for giving us the confidence to make robust strategy predictions in this rapidly changing environment.
The weather forecast for today is more sun, increasing tailwinds, and more fast racing toward Adelaide. At this point our place in the standings seems secure, but this is solar car racing – all it takes is one small mistake by us or for one of our competitors ahead, and we could have an entirely new race on our hands. Stay tuned for more updates.
October 5, 2013
Dynamic Scrutineering and last day in Darwin
by Eric Thong
Today, we passed dynamic scrutineering and received our official “SUN16″ license plate! Our lap time was a swift 2:07.78, which places us 3rd out of 24 teams in qualifying times. This means that we will be the third challenge class car to leave Darwin. We drove on the track only a handful of times since track cornering is quite tough on our low rolling resistance Michelin tires. Thankfully, Bochum provided us with a set of Schwalbe tires which performed beautifully on the track.
Ian in Luminos after the hot-lap.
With one more night until the start of the race, we’re making our final preparations like seating our spare tires.
Darren and Jamie using the “bead blaster” to rapidly (and loudly) seat tires.
We had a lot of fun talking with other teams from around the world in Darwin and we look forward to seeing everyone on the road. As fun as it was in Darwin, we can’t wait to get on the Stuart Highway and start racing. Good luck tomorrow!
Goodbye to Darwin and to our (thankfully) air conditioned hostel!
Luminos with the rest of the WSC 2013 cars
October 4, 2013
WSC route elevation profile
There have been a lot of requests coming from the Hidden Valley track for the WSC route elevation profile, and I’ve been asked to write a guest post (I graduated from SSCP years ago) to help distribute it. Some time ago I wrote a program to extract elevation data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (raw data) following a CSV route. I used Google Earth to come up with a rough route and export the KML, then ran it through GPSBabel to turn it into an easy-to-parse CSV. This was my “hello world in Go” project.
My program supersamples and does a bilinear interpolation on the route. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. With any luck the team will collect a better route profile during the race this year. In the mean time, information wants to be free, so happy strategery-ing. Download the results here.
October 3, 2013
by Max Praglin
Photo credit: Anna Olson
Greetings from the Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin, Australia! It’s been a while since we last posted from Port Augusta – and a lot has happened. Since departing from the Southern coast, we ran an approximately 1250km mock race, camped in the Outback while driving through the Northern Territory, settled down in Darwin at the Racetrack, drove a few laps, and (mostly) completed the scrutineering process for the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
In order to train our race crew and verify our race strategy, Luminos drove a mock race from Port Augusta, to Coober Pedy, to Port Augusta, to Glendambo (you could say we’re familiar with this stretch of road). The team practiced race day routines including morning array standing and control points, and also gained valuable experience in carefully metering our power consumption and production throughout the course of a multi-day race. As of the end of our mock race, Luminos has racked up around 4650 miles (7500 km). The car is ready for the 3022km between Darwin and Adelaide.
Mock race: Luminos drives along the Stuart Highway, A-B-C-B-A-B. Map from Google Maps.
The Stuart Highway is a perilous stretch of road having a rough chip-sealed surface (which notably changed our car’s power consumption), high winds, heat, desolation, and wildlife (emus as well as kangaroos after dusk). In spite of avoiding driving after the sun goes down to minimize the chance of wildlife encounters, we narrowly escaped crossing paths with a pair of emus that sprinted between Luminos and our chase car.
Following Luminos on the Stuart Highway. Photo credit: Anna Olson
In an endurance race like the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, race strategy is of the utmost importance. Going the “right” speed over the course of 3000km sets apart cars with equal performance. The mock race was an important opportunity for our Strategy Team to complete the MATLAB software used in live monitoring of the car’s status, fetching aggregated weather data, predicting the car’s state of charge in real time to within a few percent, monitoring car health, and logging geo-stamped data that can be reviewed at a later date.
Monitoring and Strategy dashboard after a full day of driving. This software assists in making decisions about how we drive the car.
A key part of our testing included building a power-to-drive model for our car in race configuration on the Stuart Highway. Repeatedly driving on the same stretch of road (at different speeds) helps in characterizing how much power our drivetrain requires. Runs in opposite directions mean that a polynomial fit to measured values will give an approximation of the car’s power consumption on flat ground – a model which is quite useful in strategy calculations.
Upon analyzing the day’s data, a simple algorithm can roughly identify when the car has reached a constant cruise speed. Power values outside these times are deemed irrelevant due to acceleration of the car.
Output of the cruise identification algorithm. Credit: Max Praglin
Power-to-drive model plotted alongside collected data. While not a perfect fit, the red line is extremely informative for strategy decisions. Credit: Max Praglin
SSCP members arrived at the Hidden Valley Raceway and eagerly scoped out the other cars. We are incredibly impressed by our competitors and wish them the best of luck on the track as well as during the race!
Semi-professional tire seating crew (Darren Chen and Jamie Goldfield) use our secret weapon to assist another team. Photo credit: Anna Olson
SSCP had the pleasure of undergoing static scrutineering alongside top teams from the 2011 World Solar Challenge (Tokai, Nuon, and Michigan, to name a few). The car passed through every step of the process – except for the rear vision requirements. We have made adjustments to the white balance of our camera as well as a more rigid mounting system, both of which changes we expect to allow completion of static scrutineering. This video describes our experience at Scrutineering. Look out for more videos from Mark Shwartz at Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, here.
SSCP decides who will drive the “hot lap” on Saturday. Photo credit: Alice Che
GPS logs from a track session at Hidden Valley. Click for animation.
Look for more updates as we move to Dynamic Scrutineering and final preparation for the race!
September 23, 2013
by Eric Thong
Welcome to the Outback! Currently, our team is here in Port Augusta doing pre-race preparations.
We’re looking to confirm and improve upon the models that we developed in California. There are a few things in the Outback that are different from the Central Valley: First, the road surface on the Stuart Highway is rougher than the roads we drove on in California. Second, the solar insolation varies with geographic location. Today, we woke up to find our tents deflating from 40kph winds, gusting to 66kph. Since aerodynamic losses are the single largest factor in power consumption, we realized that we needed to better integrate wind data in our model.
Race team drills provided a nice break from the monotony of data collecting. Apart from the usual pull-over-and-change-tire-drills, we also did some convoy passing testing — in another language. At one point, our intrepid chase radio operator Rachel was speaking in Spanish to the “Spanish convoy,” English to our convoy, while also communicating with a road train on a different radio attempting to pass both convoys. Needless to say, it was quite an authentic experience.
Nights in the outback are a welcome break from the heat and the flies during the day. One sign in front of Glendambo, a small town in the Outback, reads “Population: People – 50, Sheep – 2,000, Flies – 2,000,000.” I would say that it is not far off. Because our team is sustained by cereal and PB&J during the day, dinner is a definite highlight; we all pitch in and prepare the most tasty dinner possible with far too few pots and pans. We’re getting better at it!
September 16, 2013
First Week in Australia
by Anna Olson
Greetings from Adelaide! Stanford Solar Car and Luminos have arrived in the land down under. This is what we’ve been up to in our first week here.
The few members arrived on Monday, September 9th. After picking up one of our borrowed vehicles from the Volkswagen dealership, they headed promptly to the freight terminal near the Melbourne Airport to retrieve our solar car, which had been air-shipped by Virgin Australia. Luminos had crossed the ocean and cleared customs in record time (for our team), and was already waiting by the time any of us arrived in Australia. Air shipping is great!
Luminos patiently awaits us at the freight terminal
Luminos was well-protected by the many layers of bubble wrap and foam that we had taped in place. We loaded the car onto our rented U-Haul flatbed trailer, which we were able to store at the freight terminal for another night. The trailer was to eventually become a large enclosed crate for towing the car and some equipment, but this had yet to be built.
We picked up two more vehicles from the VW dealership, retrieved Luminos, and then spent the next two days building a crate on the trailer bed. This was all done in the back of a Bunnings (think Australian Home Depot) parking lot near the airport.
Work on the trailer in a Bunnings parking lot in Melbourne
We built the very basics of what would later become a much more elaborate crate. Additions to the crate and work on the car we would wait until we reached Adelaide. Our plan was to leave Melbourne as soon as this was travel-ready.
The next team members arrived in Melbourne on September 12th. We picked up Darren and Rachel from the airport, and then immediately headed for Adelaide on the Great Ocean Road. We allotted two days to complete the 9 hour drive, stopping to see the 12 Apostles, South Ocean beaches, and to otherwise just enjoy the gorgeous springtime coastal scenery.
Arrival in Adelaide happened the next day. Wesley, Harry, and Ian dropped off the Touareg and trailer at the VW dealership where we would be working for the next few days, and our group reconvened downtown to catch some Aussie rules football.
Light painting with Luminos in the Solitaire warehouse in Adelaide
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday consisted of work on the car, trailer, and everything in between. We’re stationed at the Solitaire Automotive Group’s End Mile location in Adelaide, where they have generously allowed us their garage space and conference room to work in. This is a big step up from the Bunnings parking lot, and we’re immensely grateful for the great work environment we have here.
Our Touareg with completed trailer in tow
At this point we’re focused on preparing the trailer and convoy for desert testing in the outback and for the race itself. Tasks include completing construction of the trailer, reassembling the car’s suspension, outfitting the vehicles with radio and warning lights, reseating tires, installing shelving in the two Caddy Maxi vans, and more. The remainder of the Australia crew (with the exception of two members meeting us in Darwin) arrived in Adelaide on Sunday the 15th and were immediately hard at work on race and testing preparations.
Darren and Greg work on reassembling and torquing to specifications the car’s suspension
At this point, we’re looking to head to the outback tomorrow, September 18th, to begin desert testing. We’ll drive around improving our strategy model and training our race crew for a week or two, and then head to Darwin for scrutineering before the race.
Thanks for keeping up with us, and check back soon for more updates.
See you back out in the outback!
Thank You, Solitaire Automotive Group
by Anna Olson
A few days after arriving in Melbourne, we made the nine hour drive out to Adelaide where we’ll stage our final car and convoy preparations before heading to the outback for testing.
This year we were fortunate enough to have the continued support of the Solitaire Automotive Group, a group of Volkswagen and related dealerships in the Adelaide area. They have generously allowed us to use their workspace at their Mile End service center, which has been immensely useful for the team in race preparations.
Just as it was last race, this is by far the best work environment we’ll while we’re in Australia. During our time here at Solitaire, we’ve finished building and painting our trailer, reassembled the car’s suspension, installed radios and warning lights on our convoy vehicles, attached wheel covers and reseated tires, built shelving for our two vans, and set up a chat server on a mesh network for the race, to name a few. Having such a well-kept facility open to us both during and after business hours has been extraordinarily useful in allowing us to properly prepare for testing in the outback and for the race itself.
Our team is equal parts grateful for and amazed by the extent of the help and hospitality we’ve experienced working here. Thank you to Craig Weber and the entire Solitaire Automotive Group here in Adelaide for your generosity and support!
Volkswagen Convoy Vehicles
by Anna Olson
One of our project’s platinum sponsors, Volkswagen, has once again generously provided our team with four vehicles to constitute our race convoy. Acquiring and outfitting vehicles for the the six weeks we spend in Australia is perhaps one of the biggest logistical challenges any team faces when competing in WSC. This sponsorship from Volkswagen has not only aided us monetarily, but has also provided us with an excellent fleet to meet all of our solar car-racing needs.
The Touareg will be towing our trailer at the back of the convoy, one Caddy Maxi will be our chase vehicle, the other Caddy Maxi will serve as lead, and the Jetta will be our scout car. (Luminos will, of course, be our solar electric vehicle.)
Thank you, Volkswagen!
September 5, 2013
Luminos arrives in Melbourne thanks to Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic
by Wesley Ford
Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic have moved mountains to get Luminos from California to Melbourne in record time. Amazingly they were able to fly our car to Melbourne and get the car through customs in less than three days! Both companies were extremely generous in their air shipping support for our team, and their staff were quick and professional while helping our team coordinate logistics and paperwork for the international shipment. The time savings and cost savings of air shipping our car instead of ocean shipping proved to be incredibly valuable for our team. We were able to double the test miles on the car, develop a more thorough race strategy model, practice pit stop scenarios, and host more young student outreach sessions.
September 4, 2013
by Anna Olson
It’s been a busy summer in preparation for the World Solar Challenge this coming October. Here’s a summary and some photos of what we’ve been up to since Luminos’s unveiling.
A few days after our unveiling on July 12th, we took Luminos on a second Central Valley test drive. (See footage from our first test drive here.) This time around we used our second set of race fairings, and had made aero improvements to cut power losses, including sealing the array and windscreen seams. This was also the first full test of the array, which was at this point fully wired. We documented a WSC’s worth of miles on the car with this photo—the most test miles that we’ve ever put on a car before shipping.
We returned from our second test drive just in time for our car’s engineering review with Dorian West, a team alumnus and current director in battery engineering at Tesla. As per WSC requirements, we had Dorian sign off on our structural certification documentation. Team members learned a great deal from Dorian’s comprehensive review of the car, and took detailed notes on his suggested changes. Thanks, Dorian!
In the following weeks, we worked on finishing touches for Luminos and more race-focused preparations. This included a gutter to protect the battery pack from water dripping down through the door seam, screens over high-voltage openings on the MPPT box, and the emergency electrical isolation switch.
The following day was occupied by a visit from the Ferrari Club Pacific Region. We had over a dozen Ferraris parked outside VAIL as we hosted a tour of our shop and Luminos for their members. We compared gas mileage and admired their cars while they admired ours.
At this point, our car was due to ocean ship in less than a week—until Wesley surprised us with news that the Virgin Group had become our newest platinum level sponsor and was air shipping our car to Australia. This gave us over a month of extra time with Luminos, which at this point was immensely useful. While all work on the car itself was essentially done (since we were anticipating shipping it sometime in July), we were able to plan yet another test drive. In addition to being perhaps the best-tested pre-race vehicle the team has built, Luminos is the first that the team has ever air-shipped to Australia. Past cars have always been shipped by ocean, which costs the team substantially more time and money. Time with the completed vehicle is immeasurably valuable for the team; this change in shipping plans has made a remarkable difference in our race preparation.
During the last week of July, we staged a mock race through central California. The focus of this third extended drive with Luminos was to test the strategy model that we had developed with data from the previous test drives. This also provided a good opportunity for training the race crew and developing detailed procedures for race operations. Our strategy model won’t be finalized until we can conduct desert testing in the Australian Outback before the race, but the extensive test mileage that we’ve put on Luminos up to this point will certainly help.
The next week, Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab rented out Thunderhill Raceway Park and generously allowed us to test on the section of track they weren’t using. We gratefully accepted this offer, and spent a day at conducting dynamic testing on Luminos. (Check back soon for footage from some of our tests.) Our drivers tested braking distances at various speeds, slalom, high-speed evasion, and crossing our makeshift wooden cattle grate. Luminos handled well through all of these tests, and our drivers got a better feel for these special-circumstance maneuvers.
During the last few weeks of summer, we continued fabrication of backup parts—now on our new Haas CNC mill—and started packing for Australia. Since Luminos was being air shipped, we had to arrange for separate ocean shipment of a couple larger items such as tires, a generator, and battery packs. All other tools, equipment, and backup parts had to be packed in suitcases that members would bring as carry-on baggage and checked luggage. Over Labor Day weekend, a couple members trailered Luminos to LAX in time for its Virgin Atlantic flight to Melbourne. We finished up packing and last race preparations at the shop, and then the following weekend saw the first team members departing for the land down under.
It’s been a productive and exciting summer. With one of our best-tested and most expediently shipped vehicles to-date on its way across the ocean, we’re eager to what this year’s World Solar Challenge has in store for us. Australia, here we come. Stay tuned!