MIT Solar Car Team Blog

Thank you Michigan Solar Car!!

We would like to say a huge thank you to the University of Michigan Solar Car team for generously donating their spare battery pack. We worked all night with the modules lent to us by Michigan, and managed to pull it together just in time. Our electrical engineers were successfully able to build a new pack last night which the scrutineers approved an hour before dynamic testing. Hats off to University of Michigan – without them we would not be running this race.
We added a Michigan sticker to our trailer as a tiny thank you.
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The ultimate test: 38 hours before the start of the race

Battery update:

Our shippers have failed to ship our battery pack to Darwin, Australia.
The team faces two options:
1. Charter a plane for $15,000 to ship our battery pack to Darwin (which we would maybe receive by the start of the race)
2. Build a new battery pack from nothing
True to the MIT SEVT engineering spirit, we have chosen option #2.
So here is begins: 38 hours before the start of the race the team, already severely sleep deprived, sets out to build a new battery pack for the race.
We would like to thank to following teams for offering to donate bits and pieces of their packs: Stanford, CalSol, Michigan, UNSW, and Aurora.
We have decided to use Michigan’s spare battery pack, which we are now disassembling to produce our own.
Screw textbooks, screw psets, screw exams: this is the true test of engineering. It’s go time:
In the meantime: A shameless sponsorship plug. http://solar-cars.scripts.mit.edu/sponsorship/adoptacell.php Think of it as powering us through the next 38 hours of pure brains, adrenaline, and sheer perseverance.
———–
Couple more photos:
The donations begin to arrive.
The debating begins.

Picture Update!

Having successfully acquired the memory cards from everyone’s cameras I now have a plethora of pictures to post. These are from the past several days:

This one here is from when we went to pick up the trailer from the shippers. Captain Alejandro Arambula poses in the “high visibility” jackets we wear whenever we have the solar car out on public roads. Funny little anecdote: The team actually took a wrong turn at the airport and almost ended up on the tarmac with all the planes. Even though people frequently ask us if the “car can fly” .. we’re not quite there yet.
This next one was when we first arrived at Hidden Valley. The World Solar Challenge draws a lot of media attention and we found ourselves the focus of several camera crews when we unloaded Chopper del Sol for the first time on Australian soil.
The electrical engineers [EEs] working on the array while it charges the battery pack. It is not uncommon to spot EEs crouched under solar car arrays, which provide about a Kilowatt of power to the vehicle (that’s less than your typical hair dryer). The car then races 3000km at highway speeds, so ensuring that everything is working as efficiently as possible is absolutely crucial.
More EEs under arrays: Here Simon Calcutt, Alexander Hayman, and George Hansel work on programming the Maximum Power Point Trackers [MPPTs] – the electrical system on the car which allows us to draw the maximum power from the array by determining how much current should be drawn from a string of cells.
As you may remember from a previous blog post, one of the challenges the team has been facing is that our battery pack has been held in Singapore due to a mistake our shipper’s part. Our EEs quickly put together the pack above, made from Golf Cart lead-acid batteries so that we could test-drive the car. After several hours of international phone calls, we have news that our battery pack should arrive late tonight.
Still despite not having our race pack, the car is driving great. Above is a picture of the car zooming by at around 47 mph (75 km/h). The car does look a bit bare as we have yet to add our brand new sponsor stickers to the car (it’s on the to-do list for today). However, our sponsors are not forgotten: all our race and support vehicles have been decked out with brand new color stickers (and notice the back of Bruce’s shirt, also sporting our sponsor logos).
Again a huge thank you to all our sponsors. This incredible project would not have been possible without you.
Above, Conan Hom times driver Lauren Chai as she practices getting in and out of the car. Drivers are required to get in and out from the car in less than 15 seconds. We passed this with flying colors – one of our drivers made it in 10 seconds.
Rachel, George, Kelly, and myself rocking our awesome MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team t-shirts as we watch the proceedings on the track.
Team members attached the large “Solar Vehicle Ahead” sticker to the chase car. WSC regulations require all chase support vehicles to have this as we do drive on the Stuart highway alongside the general public.
Here are a couple pictures from scrutineering. Several teams are inspected at the same time, so it is a great opportunity to go check out other teams’ cars. It’s awesome to see the variety in designs:

Time to join the team for test driving. I’ll add more pictures when I get the time. Keep checking back!

Picture Update!

Having successfully acquired the memory cards from everyone’s cameras I now have a plethora of pictures to post. These are from the past several days:

This one here is from when we went to pick up the trailer from the shippers. Captain Alejandro Arambula poses in the “high visibility” jackets we wear whenever we have the solar car out on public roads. Funny little anecdote: The team actually took a wrong turn at the airport and almost ended up on the tarmac with all the planes. Even though people frequently ask us if the “car can fly” .. we’re not quite there yet.
This next one was when we first arrived at Hidden Valley. The World Solar Challenge draws a lot of media attention and we found ourselves the focus of several camera crews when we unloaded Chopper del Sol for the first time on Australian soil.
The electrical engineers [EEs] working on the array while it charges the battery pack. It is not uncommon to spot EEs crouched under solar car arrays, which provide about a Kilowatt of power to the vehicle (that’s less than your typical hair dryer). The car then races 3000km at highway speeds, so ensuring that everything is working as efficiently as possible is absolutely crucial.
More EEs under arrays: Here Simon Calcutt, Alexander Hayman, and George Hansel work on programming the Maximum Power Point Trackers [MPPTs] – the electrical system on the car which allows us to draw the maximum power from the array by determining how much current should be drawn from a string of cells.
As you may remember from a previous blog post, one of the challenges the team has been facing is that our battery pack has been held in Singapore due to a mistake our shipper’s part. Our EEs quickly put together the pack above, made from Golf Cart lead-acid batteries so that we could test-drive the car. After several hours of international phone calls, we have news that our battery pack should arrive late tonight.
Still despite not having our race pack, the car is driving great. Above is a picture of the car zooming by at around 47 mph (75 km/h). The car does look a bit bare as we have yet to add our brand new sponsor stickers to the car (it’s on the to-do list for today). However, our sponsors are not forgotten: all our race and support vehicles have been decked out with brand new color stickers (and notice the back of Bruce’s shirt, also sporting our sponsor logos).
Again a huge thank you to all our sponsors. This incredible project would not have been possible without you.
Above, Conan Hom times driver Lauren Chai as she practices getting in and out of the car. Drivers are required to get in and out from the car in less than 15 seconds. We passed this with flying colors – one of our drivers made it in 10 seconds.
Rachel, George, Kelly, and myself rocking our awesome MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team t-shirts as we watch the proceedings on the track.
Team members attached the large “Solar Vehicle Ahead” sticker to the chase car. WSC regulations require all chase support vehicles to have this as we do drive on the Stuart highway alongside the general public.
Here are a couple pictures from scrutineering. Several teams are inspected at the same time, so it is a great opportunity to go check out other teams’ cars. It’s awesome to see the variety in designs:

Time to join the team for test driving. I’ll add more pictures when I get the time. Keep checking back!

Day 3 — Scrutineering

Today we had a scrutineering slot at 11am to verify regulations compliance. We passed, with the exception of the battery examination. Because our battery pack is still in transit to Darwin, the race officials graciously granted us permission to go through battery scrutineering later on.

Lauren (right) and Kelly (left) at driver weigh-in. Photo credit Andy Batzer.

Chopper del Sol during scrutineering. Photo credit Andy Batzer.

 Our array, propped up on its stand. Photo credit George Hansel.

The team is pretty happy that scrutineering went well. We will continue to haul ass through the next few days to get the car ready for the race. Tomorrow, we will test drive and do some fine-tuning.

Hidden Valley: Day 2 – Afternoon update

We ended up working pretty late last night to get the car ready for driving today. We still have a lot of work to do but progress is good.

A little about what’s happening right now: We are at Hidden Valley, a race track near the city of Darwin. Before the race starts all teams must undergo scrutineering, where race officials inspect the car to make sure it passes all technical regulations; all cars then complete a time trial to determine start order.
The track is pretty animated right now. All teams are making last minute adjustments and modifications to get their cars in race-ready shape. It’s fun to see the different vehicles and teams. Couple quick stats: There are 37 teams registered to compete as of the Scrutineering Draw announced an hour ago: http://www.worldsolarchallenge.org/page/view_by_id/33
21 different countries are represented.
While part of the team works on the car the rest of the team is getting together all other race equipment. Here Bruce and Adam hold up our 8ft anemometer tower, which will be mounted on our lead car.
We still have a lot of work to do.. so it’s looking like another long night. We have a couple more team members arriving tonight and tomorrow.
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Chopper is at Hidden Valley!!



We spent most of the daytime finishing up errands and buying materials that we needed, anxiously waiting for our shipping agent to clear up our customs issues. At 3pm we finally got the call and sprinted over to the Darwin airport to get our trailer. By 5pm, Chopper had arrived at Hidden Valley! We unpacked all our gear and went to work immediately.



We mostly had to finish lots of detail work – the night before we went through the rules one more time and marked a couple things we had to adjust in order to comply. We also built a solar array stand for charging pre- and post-race hours. Our trailer got updated with sponsor stickers.

We left pretty late, but there were still a few teams working! We’re back at the SEVT shack to a few hours of sleep, then back to the track for some more work. Stay tuned for more updates!

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A good meal is easy to find (in Darwin)


After thirty hours of travel, upon arriving to our house in Darwin, Alix and Michael set out with a fresh energy for food preparation. A quick trip to the grocery store and our kitchen was stocked with makings of a delicious meal for the team: salad, mozzarella, tomatoes, delicious Darwin carrots, ground beef, and sausages (curiously marked only as “meat”).

Alejandro, team captain (“el Capitan”), supervises what in Australia is known as the “barbie”.

Alex (left) and Adam (right), display both their enthusiasm for the delicious salad and their unwillingness to endure Darwin’s 30C (86F) heat.

After taking care of their hunger, MIT students Alejandro, Kelly, and Rachel tend to their next-most-important need: Internet. They do so while wearing the team uniform.

Fun Australia facts: the standard soda can is slightly larger than in the US (375 mL vs 355) and our house keys are made of titanium.
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Chopper has been found in Darwin (happily swimming)

Patiently waiting for the carnet and their team members to arrive in Darwin, Rachel, Simon, and Alex visited the “Crocosaurus Cove” and discovered Chopper . . . though not del Sol. He seemed pretty happy, as a solar-heated reptile who weighs just about 3 times that of our Chopper.

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Team in Australia

A few members arrived on Friday and the rest of the team will be here this afternoon.
Our car has arrived safely in Darwin, but we are still waiting on our Carnet to get it through customs. Hopefully we can get that all sorted out on Monday morning and start prepping for the race.

We will post pictures in the next few days, but our current internet connection is a bit too slow for that.We will also be updating our progress on our new twitter account @ChopperdelSol
We also have satellite phones with a data plan thanks to SatellitePhoneStore.com and will be able to send out pictures and updates while racing in the Outback!

Thank you to all our sponsors who have helped us get here. We are all excited to race!

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