Planning a solar car race raises many questions:
- Does the real world match the computer generated models?
- What is the actual rolling resistance?
- Will the solar cells be able to operate efficiently or will the dust and the heat affect them?
- What are the wind conditions like?
We’re planning to hit the start line as one of the best-prepared teams in the race’s history. And these are all vital questions when designing a solar vehicle to race. As we’re a new team, without direct experience of the race, these answers aren’t obvious to us. So we sent a three-strong reconnaissance team to the outback to get the answers, with them arriving exactly one year ahead of the October start date.
The Data Beast – a Hyundai SUV
Tucked into the mid-sized Tucson SUV from Hyundai, the team set up a series of sensors all over the car that would create millions of data points we could then use inform our Cray supercomputer models (thanks again to sponsor CFMS for providing the computer cluster for the car’s development).
Equipment used measured:
- the wind speed / direction
- ambient temperature
- relative humidity
- ambient pressure
- solar panel temperature
- solar irradiance
Each of these data points were mapped to a GPS coordinate.
For example, our rig’s wind sensors uses four ultrasonic microphones to measure speed and direction, giving an accurate picture of the gusting the drivers can expect on the open plains… and from road trains.
Its solar panel sample was used to collect temperature data, which the team can use, along with solar irradiance, to estimate the performance of different solar panels over the course of the challenge.
And of course, the trip also allowed for some great photos.
The Data Collection Trip: a Gallery