back to article Japanese take World Solar Challenge

Tokai University has taken the World Solar Challenge after one of the tightest last days in the history of the race. After 3,000km and five days, just over an hour separated first and second place, with The Netherlands' Nuon team running a close second. Drivers Kenjiro Shinozuka and Kouhei Sagawa celebrate Team Tokai's win In …

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Pint

A bar with WiFi..

PIMP Gamers bar and lounge. From the finish line in Vic Square head to the Post Office and turn left :)

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: A bar with WiFi..

Nice one, mate!

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Pint

Cheers to the lot of them

Glad to see the Dutch team on the podium (as me mum is Dutch), kudos to Tokai and Michigan too of course!

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Anonymous Coward

Looking at those photos.......

I see that the gender make up of the teams is generally male (and I'll leave out the generic joke about the Dutch girl, I'm sure she's competent at whatever she does for the team).

Is this a sign of the bias in engineering or does it indicate that only men give a toss about the future of the planet?

(I really miss the grenade icon)

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Looking at those photos.......

There were more women in several teams, including the second Dutch team Twente and some of theAmerican teams.

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Anonymous Coward

So you are saying that the teams with more women underachieved?

Don't worry about the coat, I've already left.

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Well done all involved.

I hope each year innovations are made in the field of Solar-Powered cars, and these innovations are passed to the motoring industry.

Currently electric and solar cars are simply not viable, but they are going to have to become so as we get increasingly gouged for fuel and then ultimately use it all up.

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Alert

Unfortunatly, all this really proves is that solar vehicles will never be practical for the majority: these are highly optimised prototype vehicles, yet they can barely manage highway speed for a single lightweight passenger, under almost optimum (solar) conditions. So, if you put the same amount of solar panels on a family-sized car then you will barely have enough power to move the vehicle itself, never mind a full load. If used as a boost / recharge for a plug-in electric vehicle, then the cost would be about triple that of the base vehicle, ie you would be better to buy three, leave one plugged in at home, one plugged in at work, and one to shuttle in between.

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Anonymous Coward

the year they are racing across Britain I will be impressed, until then, meh!

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Stop

...which mostly shows that "normal family-sized cars" are pretty inefficient

To transport one person, say 80 kg, from point A to point B, the car weighs in the range of 1000 kg, or over 12 times the mass of the person being transported, hence requiring 12 times the energy. Of course, if you make that 4 80 kg persons, the car "only" weighs about 3 times as much.

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Anonymous Coward

Steam

What we really need is a World Steam Car Challenge - coal fired, of course. That would be mutch more intereting.

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generally male

No doubt there is some bias but...

Now I wonder if bias can be the result of what people "give a toss about"

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Happy

Well done everyone - always like to hear about people pushing out the boundaries. I seem to remember the first of these races was largely treated as a joke, but the jokers have gone rather quiet now!

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Bronze badge

so now that the competition's over

can we get details on what made the winning cars "better"? Or will we find that the controllers, batteries, solar intake efficiencies and aerodynamics were so close to identical between most of the cars that winning came down completely to driver skills or team strategy instead?

as well as compare that to the hardware from previous races and see what significant innovations were applied from last year, if any, that allowed teams to change their placement this year?

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Black Helicopters

It's F1 racing for geeks who don't want to look like planet destroyers

The WSC is now an extreme (expensive) "sport". Sadly, the total cost of entry is now in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even for those on a "shoestring" budget. For most schools, such things are now well out of reach. It's become a spectator sport that is very, very boring.

And unlike F1, where one has reasonable control of the operating environment, "competitors" have no reliable way of telling how much "fuel" they'll have; and when. Given the variability of conditions, even finishing the distance in the allotted time has only about 90% probability with a "perfect run". Even knowing how the weather is about to change doesn't help significantly with the leading (best) cars which are restricted to the speed limit formuch of the distance. Finishing in half the time ... less than 50%.

It's a huge gamble. It's a casino. We know who wins in a casino.

Even the best strategist, running a perfectly-engineered car and team won't help if there's a cloud-bank persistently between your car and the sun. Your best strategy is to rely on the unreliability and misfortune of those with notionally-quicker cars.

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Anonymous Coward

oo oo oo if youve got time....

given how the rest of the pack is now overcast, any chance of an overview of british type weather performance?

If the cars can still travel under PV power rather than the batteries, then the future looks very promising indeed :D

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a reverse USB

If every car had one and was festooned with solar cells why couldn't the power that they would generate trickle back into the grid?

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@The First Dave

All Mr Trevithick's steam powered car has proved is that powered vehicles will never be a practical alternative to the horse. It costs hundreds of times more than a horse, is only capable of 9mph and when left by the side of the road explodes.

If these engineers would only apply their minds to producing a better horse rather than ridiculous steam engines ordinary people would be better off

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FAIL

No

In a sense, a better horse is precisely what we have - a small, enclosed metal horse that runs on hydrocarbons rather than hay, and is similarly independent of weather conditions. However good solar cars get, it is always going to be the case that they perform better in nice weather.

Solar panels may be part of the solution, in the same way in which wind turbines are part of the sustainable electricity generation solution, but are unlikely ever to be the whole solution.

Incidentally, electric cars work fine now on the "better horse" basis - we just need a horse/battery swapping infrastructure to support them.

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FAIL

Hardly surprising, given the standard of construction

I did manage to look over the Tokai teams site and they place great emphasis on weight reduction of the bodywork and chassis. If it is built like anything else from Japan, I suspect it is a neat and elegant structure.

I had previously seen some pics of other cars, that frankly, looked like rolling scrap-heaps under the sleak bodywork. tens of metres of cable loosely coiled in void spaces, very basic chassis, badly welded suspension subframes, etc etc .. frabnkly, the standard of construction was far worse than you see at any amateur motorsport meeting.

If the Japanese team had applied their usual construction and attention to detail to the project, then it is hardly surprising they won, as from what I saw, the competetiors were poorly built and needlessly overweight.

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Facepalm

Be fair to constructors

Solar car racing is not a "hobby" (for most). It's a learning exercise for students. Usually university students. And with limited budgets, tight schedules to fit into busy study timetables, it doesn't leave much time to develop craftsmanship, let alone refinement.

There is some opportunity for re-use and refinement in long-lived vehicles; cars that are competitive and adaptable to changes in rules. But many choose to start over again, carrying over almost nothing tangible from previous cars.

Construction is hard. Least of all because many things have to be built from scratch; from near-raw material in order to be application specific, allowing a reduction to the simplest, lightest component that will do the job. They often end up re-inventing wheels.

But such isn't a bad thing in the bigger picture. It's a learning exercise for the participants.

Solar cars will never be practical for ordinary transport. The energy source is too diffuse and unpredictable for reliable transport. The actions of inventing and developing novel, "practical" solutions to problems; and facing up to their "failure" are valuable lessons. Expensive ones, but not nearly as bad as mobile phones "bursting into flames" because the battery management system doesn't have working fail-safes.

Here's a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg:

http://scg.levels.unisa.edu.au/src/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage

It's a little dated but sufficiently vague to be malleable to current conditions and technologies.

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...So how are Durham getting on?

I might have missed an earlier article wherein their fate was explained, but I was expecting some mention of the plucky pommie underdogs.

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