Solar Car Conference 2015

CalSol members at the first-ever Solar Car Conference. CalSol members in FXB on the North Campus of the University of Michigan. We were very happy to have attended!

CalSol members at the first-ever Solar Car Conference. CalSol members in FXB on the North Campus of the University of Michigan. We were very happy to have attended!

CalSol visiting General Motors.General Motors was a gracious host to CalSol, showing us great engineering facilities on our  visit to the Technical Center in Warren, MI and their Proving Grounds in Milford, MI. Thank you for your hospitality!

CalSol visiting General Motors.
General Motors was a gracious host to CalSol, showing us great engineering facilities on our visit to the Technical Center in Warren, MI and their Proving Grounds in Milford, MI. Thank you for your hospitality!

Bowling with UT Austin. CalSol bowling at Maplewood Lanes with UT Austin after the end of the conference. Great way to finish on and strike a high note!

Bowling with UT Austin. CalSol bowling at Maplewood Lanes with UT Austin after the end of the conference. Great way to strike up a bond between solar teams!

 

 

This past weekend five members of CalSol attended the first Solar Car Conference! The conference was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, hosted by the University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team and organized by IEF.

We learned a lot and brought members that represented all crucial areas of the team. This made break-out sections highly effective for logistics, electrical knowledge, mechanical expertise, and project management. It was very lucky that this weekend overlapped with our Spring Break at UC Berkeley so that we could focus on absorbing as much of the information as possible!

We were most excited to hear about future regulations. CalSol was happy to participate in the discussion of what specifications may change so that our future vehicle designs may be optimized.

However, the best part was catching up with old friends and making new friends in the solar car community. It is always great sharing our passion for engineering and solar technology with others!

 

SunPower Sponsor Spotlight!

CalSol recently visited SunPower at their Richmond office on November 5, 2014. We displayed our newest racing vehicle, Zephyr, and discussed our progress and future plans and projects. We also took Zephyr for a spin in their parking lot and shared ideas with some of their engineers who helped us with our solar array.



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CalSol incorporates SunPower High-Efficiency Gen-E solar cells in Zephyr. SunPower’s innovative solar cells have been critical to unleashing the full performance of our vehicles. CalSol is also incredibly grateful for SunPower’s continued generosity and support throughout the years by providing us with the resources and facilities necessary to create our solar array. Our success would not have been possible without you!



Thank you again to SunPower!

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Thank you Starlink!

Starlink Co. has yet again provided us with stickers and decals for Zephyr, free of charge. Starlink is a leader in digital printing, and the kind folks at Starlink even expedited our decals order so we can have them on the car before FSGP/ASC! Thank you very much for your support!

 

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The beautiful decals adorning Zephyr’s top shell

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The CalSol & Cal decals also made it on Polytechnique Montreal’s Esteban!

The Team’s Snapshots from FSGP 2014!

Although everything couldn’t quite come together this time, the team certainly had a memorable experience these past two weeks. The mechanical team put in a truly incredible amount of work into Zephyr (I am personally on the electrical team, so I think I can say this without bragging, haha). So much of the car you see is handmade, from the sleek carbon-fiber shell to the welded aluminum chassis, with little tolerance and deviation from the models. Even the current electrical issues are only a temporary speed bump for  Zephyr; we simply didn’t have the resources and time to fix them when they arose unexpectedly last Friday. I am still very proud to be part of this team, and know how much work went into designing and building Zephyr. There will be races ahead for our latest vehicle, but until then, check out some photos from FSGP 2014!

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Zephyr and friends, ready to rayce (despite the clouds)!

The truck space was heavily optimized, significantly reducing mileage

The truck space was heavily optimized, significantly reducing mileage

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Getting ready to load Zephyr into the trailer, departing from Berkeley at sunset

The rather picturesque spot in the Mojave Desert where the trailer's wheel blew out

The rather picturesque spot in the Mojave Desert where the trailer’s wheel blew out
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Switching out the chewed up wheel and what remains of the tire rubber

Sunset in the desert with CalSol

Sunset in the desert with CalSol

Passing through small-town Texas, almost at Austin after 1700 miles of driving
Driving through small-town Texas, almost at Austin after almost two thousand miles of driving

Finally at the hotel, the electrical team is checking on the circuitry

Finally at the hotel, the electrical team is checking on the circuitry

Team meeting that night, planning the tasks ahead

Team meeting that night, planning the tasks ahead

We are joined by the sprinkler system, as our suspension/chassis lead scrambles to clear the equipment from the waterWe are joined by the sprinkler system, as our suspension/chassis lead and his Chicago Cubs cap scramble to clear the equipment from the water

Zephyr being rolled out at the Circuit of the America, not yet adorned with decals

Zephyr being rolled out at the Circuit of the America, not yet adorned with decals
Demonstrating the suspension system to the inspectors, naturally by standing on it

Demonstrating the suspension system to the inspectors, naturally by standing on it

You could say we all had a few bugs in our cars

You could say we all had a few bugs in our cars

 

A lot of mechanical fine-tuning and touch-ups were done at FSGP, to say the least

A lot of mechanical fine-tuning and touch-ups were done at FSGP, to say the least

 

The glorious prototype telemetry box deserved a spot here

The glorious prototype telemetry box deserved a spot here

 

Securing temperature sensors inside the battery box

Securing temperature sensors inside the battery box

 

Zephyr's drivers studying the race track via simulation, mentally noting the turns and optimal speeds

Zephyr’s drivers studying the race track via simulation, mentally noting the turns and optimal speeds

 

Adjusting the rear-view camera placement

Adjusting the rear-view camera placement

 

Doing some late-night work on the power distribution box, the night of a record thunderstorm

Doing some late-night work on the power distribution box, the night of a record thunderstorm

Zephyr showing off its handling during dynamic scrutineering, with an especially impressive slalom run

Zephyr showing off its handling during dynamic scrutineering, with an especially impressive slalom run

We hope you’ll continue to join us in Zephyr’s future adventures, and see you next time!

 

 

 

 

FSGP/ASC2014: We Have Withdrawn

Saturday July 19th was CalSol’s first and last day participating in the Formula Sun Grand Prix 2014 at the Circuit of the Americas. CalSol successfully got Zephyr on the track on Saturday morning. We were able to get a few laps around the track but soon discovered an electrical problem that caused the car to turn itself off after exceeding speeds around 30mph. To provide some context, it was necessary for Zephyr to reliably drive with a speed upwards of 60mph in order for us to take Zephyr on public roads. On the Circuit of the Americas track, one of the very first hurdles was getting past a steep hill before going around the first corner. After a few laps around the track, Zephyr started to cut off its power while climbing the hill.

Zephyr at the starting line of FSGP

Zephyr at the starting line of FSGP

We discovered that the electrical current limit of one of our systems was set too low, thus triggering a safety feature to shut down the car.  This is an anomaly, as we have been able to take the car to speeds upwards of 50mph. We examined every connector, board, wire, and piece of software that we could get our hands on. We were at a constant hustle to get the car running on the track again—but each time it would stall after ten seconds of acceleration. Members frantically ran to and fro along the track with tools, computers, and debuggers.

This went on for six hours. Unfortunately, by the end of the day we had only completed five laps out of the required forty-eight. Though ASC can grant provisional qualification to teams that have a high potential, CalSol decided to withdraw from the race simply because racing a car with an unreliable electrical system on public highways posed a safety risk for the team.

We are very disappointed. We had come out to Texas to race to Minnesota and our FSGP/ASC2014 experience was cut short.

Without a doubt, forfeiting ASC2014 was one of the team’s lowest and the most humbling moments. We learned that the importance of extensive testing wasn’t just some rookie comment, but rather it was an absolute necessity for any team who wants to ensure a reliable vehicle. We experienced first-hand what it meant to push ourselves even when we thought we could not be pushed any further. And the most encouraging part is, we got to interact with the kind and intelligent solar car community who worked across team affiliations to get every car up and running.

In ASC 2012, CalSol reached a respectable 4th place finish on a simple but well-tested vehicle. After ASC 2012, CalSol went great lengths to build a solar vehicle with the most efficient aerodynamics and solar cells, lightest body and chassis, and the most advanced manufacturing techniques that the team had ever undertaken. Despite the measures taken to create the most advanced solar car, we fell short in producing a reliable vehicle.

Like every car, Zephyr succeeded in some aspects and failed in others.

Before packing up, there was one more thing we were able to do in order to help the solar car community. Polytechnique Montréal turned sharply on a tight corner on the track and snapped one of their car’s two Mitsuba motors. The team ingeniously found a way to power the car with a single motor in mere hours, and conditionally qualified for ASC2014. However, being short one motor without a spare was not a comfortable situation for the Montréal team. Since CalSol’s Zephyr uses the same equipment, we let Montréal borrow two Mitsuba motors for the race.

In 2003, CalSol had motor issues and ended up racing with University of Kentucky’s motor. This week we were able to pay that kindness forward. I like to call it solar car karma. Even though we will not be able to race, we are still honored to participate in such an amazing community. We hope that our competitors are able to reach their fullest potential.

CalSol and Montreal collaborating to provide Montreal functional motors for ASC2014

CalSol and Montreal collaborating to provide Montreal functional motors for ASC2014

Montreal's damaged motor

Montreal’s damaged motor

With a great deal of dedication, perseverance, and solar car karma, we are making great progress in solar car innovation. We are using this experience as a stepping-stone for accelerated progress with Zephyr. We’ve identified key issues with over-eager safety systems and are developing a better testing strategy. The best days of this car have yet to be seen, and we are excited to see where we go next.

Min Ju Lee

CalSol team lead

CalSol 2014 team photo

CalSol 2014 team photo

 

Thank you GM for providing us with two Yukons for the race! While Zephyr will not make the trip up to Minnesota, several team members will travel with other teams up north to get the ASC 2014 experience

Thank you GM for providing us with two Yukons for the race! While Zephyr will not make the trip up to Minnesota, several team members will travel with other teams up north to partake in the ASC 2014 racing experience.

FSGP/ASC2014 Update: Scrutineering

Hello everyone! Sorry to keep you in the dark during this past week… if you kept up with our facebook posts, you’d know that this past week was filled with a whole lotta fixing for our team.

The team arrived in Austin, TX with Zephyr that needed a lot of fixing. First of all, Scrutineering was set to start on Monday. Due to our need to fix our defective braking system as described in our previous blog post in addition to an exploded trailer tire, we arrived in Austin on late Monday afternoon to start scrutineering on Tuesday. We added new lights, replaced enclosures, designed temperature sensing system, made new boards, soldered a whole lotta everything, cut here and taped there. We re-did them twice, thrice, four times, as many times until we were ensured that faulty systems were fixed and that we can ensure the driver’s safety.

List of to-do on Wednesday afternoon

List of to-do on Wednesday afternoon

FSGP (Formula Sun Grand Prix) was set to start on Thursday, but we could not get on the track on Thursday because we still had consequential problems that needed to be debugged. In order to qualify for ASC, we must complete 60 laps in 1 day or 90 in two consecutive days. We decided to take our time to ensure that the problems were fixed for good before putting the car and the driver on a track race, to ensure the safety and performance of Zephyr and its driver.

CalSol members busily fixing up Zephyr's mechanical issues

CalSol members busily fixing up Zephyr’s electrical / mechanical issues

Finally on Friday, we were able to get a good to go “green” sticker on all scrutineering stations– solar (modified our array size), body & sizing (installed new lights, modified enclosures, added rear view camera, added paddings), BPS (redesigned and implemented a new temperature sensing system), mechanical (added crumple zones), electrical (added electrical hazard labels), drivers (qualified Ellande, Nick, Aditya, and Aly to be our drivers), and dynamic testing.

Despite the troubles we went through fixing up Zephyr, it performed exquisitely well in dynamic testing. Aditya shocked the team when he zipped through slalom and figure 8 test in record time.

Figure 8 test during Dynamic Scrutineering

Figure 8 test during Dynamic Scrutineering

The team is so excited to get some time on the track race tomorrow. CalSol is team #6– wish us luck & abundant sunshines!

Crazy thunderstorm on Thursday evening + unforeseen fire alarm == rain dance from the teams

Crazy thunderstorm on Thursday evening + unforeseen fire alarm == rain dance from the teams