Summer Summary

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!

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