The latest news about solar racing worldwide

by Jeroen Haringman

Solar car racing teams wanted for Monaco solar boat race!

solar1_logoThis summer, from July 10-12, 2014, the first Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup will be held in Monaco. During this event, 31 solar boat racing teams from all over the world will compete against each other in three races (slalom, fleet and one-on-one sprint). PlanetSolar, the solar-powered boat that circumnavigated the globe in 2012, will be the official jury boat. Between the high-tech solar boats and the exotic location, this should be a great event to visit!

The organisers would like to invite a number of solar car teams to show off their cars – and themselves! – to the crowds and possible sponsors. If you and your team would like to seize this opportunity, please contact Hayley Atkinson, the event’s marketing coordinator on or +33 640628264.

by Jeroen Haringman

Extremely addictive solar racing game

A not-quite-finished game, with many of the teams visible.

A not-quite-finished game, with many of the teams visible.

Every couple of months, a simple computer game will get absurdly famous for a short while – before fading into obscurity a few weeks or months later. A few months ago we saw Flappy Bird, and the current fad is 2048, a simple yet ridiculously addictive numbers game. The creator of the 2048 has made it very simple to create customised versions of it and, and a person by the name of “Jane Liu” made a solar racing-themed version.

The idea behind the game is simple (I recommend playing the original number-based 2048 once or twice before trying the solar racing version) but instead of numbers, you play with the ten teams that completed the 2013 World Solar Challenge in the Challenger class.

I cannot overstate the addictiveness of this game enough, but I still recommend anyone to have a go. :D After a few games, you’ll be intimately familiar with the solar cars.

Good luck! I hope people can let me know in the comments below or on the Facebook page when they won :)

by Jeroen Haringman

Seraaj Solar Car Team video documentary

The Seraaj Solar Car Team of the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals from Saudi Arabia, has published a video documentary about their attempt to participate in the 2013 World Solar Challenge. It’s extremely unfortunate that I have to write “attempt” as the team had the most dreadful bad luck. The articulated lorry that carried the solar car from Sydney to Darwin caught fire (apparently unrelated to the solar car), and the solar car was completely destroyed. The documentary doesn’t hide the emotional distress this event caused the students. It also provides quite a bit of insight in the building process of the car, and it ends on a positive note with the announcement that the team will build a new car and compete in the 2015 World Solar Challenge.

The video has English subtitles.

by Jeroen Haringman

SolarStratos high-altitude solar-powered aeroplane

There seems to be something in the Swiss drinking water that makes them want to built innovative solar-powered vehicles. From this mountainous country hail the Solar Impulse project (currently hard at work at building their second aeroplane which is to fly around the world in 2015), the PlanetSolar project (who circumnavigated the globe in their beautiful solar-powered ship in 2012) and the Solar Energy Racers project (who finished in fifth place in the 2013 World Solar Challenge).

A 3D render of the SolarStratos aircraft. Credit: SolarStratos

A 3D render of the SolarStratos aircraft.
Credit: SolarStratos

Now, a fourth project has been started up: SolarStratos. The goal of the project is to build a solar-electric aeroplane that can take two people all the way up to 75000 feet, into the stratosphere.

The layout of the plane as seen on the 3D renders seems to be fairly conventional, rather like a motor glider. According to the specifications, 20 m2 of 24 % efficient solar cells will collect solar energy, which can be stored in an 80 kg/20 kWh Li-ion battery. The electric motor has a maximum power of 13.5 kW and it swings a 1.6 m three-bladed propeller.

The weight is stated as 350 kg, and although it is not specified I assume that this is the weight without the occupant(s). That means that nearly a quarter of the empty weight is batteries. As a comparison: the first Solar Impulse plane weighs about 1600 kg and has a 450 kg battery, which is about the same ratio. Apparently that is the sweet spot for the current generation of solar-electric aircraft.

According to the project’s calendar, the first stratospheric flight should take place in 2017, and they plan to fly paying passengers commercially a year later. I imagine the ride will be something like the flight Top Gear’s James May took in a U2 high-altitude spy plane, only with just the quiet hum of the electric motor instead of the scream of jet engine:

We’ll have to see what the price of a ride will be, I actually hope it’ll be within my reach. It seems like quite an experience.

by Jeroen Haringman

Solar racing history: Sunswift 1999 record attempt

In 1999 – fifteen years ago – the Sunswift team left Perth, Australia for Sydney to try to beat the record for a solar-powered vehicle. The video below shows the team during this effort, with ups and downs, fun moments, disappointed moments and proud moments. Ultimately, very bad weather slowed them down and they arrived in Sydney eleven days after they left Perth – not fast enough to break the 8½ day record. Still, it’s clear the adventure was a great experience for the team.

I love watching these old videos, they’re really pieces of solar racing history. Enjoy: