We’re proud to announce Electrek is sponsoring the American Solar Challenge this year. The 2018 event (PDF Flyer), which begins next weekend, will see racers take their Solar-powered “cars” from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon loosely through the Oregon Trail. I use quotes because to get the Wh/mile equation on these vehicles to within what’s possible with a car footprint solar array, you’ll essentially need 4-wheeled electric bicycles.
The American Solar Challenge (ASC) is a multi-day, 1,500-2,000 mile cross-country endurance rally across North America. The event is typically held every other year during the summer and is open to collegiate level solar car teams from countries all over the world. The routes have varied greatly over the course of the event’s rich history, but they are always designed to provide teams with a great opportunity to demonstrate their solar cars under real world driving conditions and thoroughly test the reliability of all onboard systems.
This year is a bit more interesting also in that they are now racing a cruiser class which will act and look a lot more like traditional road vehicles…
The cruiser class or multiple occupant vehicle class was introduced in the 2013 World Solar Challenge which is held every odd year in Australia. The vehicles in each event are closely related, though the US event seems a little more strict about university students participating vs. the more corporate nature of the Australian event.
Multi-Occupant Vehicles (MOV) are classified as:
- Seats 2 or more people
- Larger solar array size and no supplemental array
- No limit on amount of batteries
- Recharging via external sources is allowed
- Scoring is a combination of energy efficiency score (people-distance, time, and external recharging) and a practicality score
The winner of the Cruiser class vehicle at the Australian event, the Dutch Solar Team Eindhoven is working to commercialize their vehicle which held 5 passengers as the Stella Vie. Again, these vehicles still resemble enclosed bikes like a solar ELF and PEBL more than street legal cars but they are moving in the direction of passenger vehicles that we might see on the streets one day.
If at this point, you are saying to yourself, “why doesn’t Tesla just put solar panels on the Model 3?”, note that the 600W or so of panels on these cars would only push a Model 3 a few miles at best on an hour of charge. A full day of sun charge might get you close to 10 miles of range – and the Model 3 is the second most efficient EV on the US market. To move a Model 3 40 miles in 1 hour, you’d need something like 20 rooftop 3’x5′ panels, or 300 square feet of solar. Not very realistic.
So why should anyone care about this race and the technology employed? As followers of both EV technology, energy storage and solar power, we’re obviously looking to see what kind of innovations the winners produce. Additionally, EV companies, and solar/energy storage companies for that matter, will find fantastic recruits among the students participating.
Remember, the Stanford Solar Car Project, which raced in Australia, was ‘key’ to Tesla’s inception according Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. The documentary on Stanford’s team is queued up to Straubel’s take below.
If you think you might want to check out the event, take a look at the ASC 2018 Route Book Download. Here’s the route through Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon:
Track and Route
Hosting both the scrutineering and Formula Sun Grand Prix portions of the event will be Motorsport Park Hastings in Hastings, Nebraska. The 2018 Formula Sun Grand Prix will be the first at the 2.15 mile track.
Following the track race, teams will move to the starting point of the American Solar Challenge in Omaha, NE at Lewis & Clark Landing. This is where the display day and multi-occupant judging will take place.
For the road portion of the event, teams can expect a journey covering more than 1,700 miles. The route will cover portions of the Oregon Trail from Nebraska to Oregon; the stops are listed below:
- Omaha, NE (Starting line) – July 14
- Grand Island, NE (Checkpoint) – July 14
- Gering, NE (Stage stop) – July 15 – 16
- Casper, WY (Checkpoint) – July 16
- Lander, WY (Stage stop) – July 17-18
- Farson, WY (Checkpoint) – July 18
- Arco, ID (Stage stop) – July 19 – 20
- Mountain Home, ID (Checkpoint) – July 20
- Burns, OR (Stage stop) – July 21 – 22
- Bend, OR (Finish line) – July 22
How’d we get the money to sponsor the event this year? We took money from our Patreon and our ad sales – so really YOU, the Electrek reader and supporter, are sponsoring the American Solar Challenge. If you want to donate any more money to the cause, head over to the ASC donations page. Thank You 😀