Day 14: Solar Sauna on the Speedway

Rafy drives around at slow speeds

Today was the first full day of testing for CalSol. After much debugging and coding yesterday, Impulse began moving quickly and efficiently with no errors. With the success yesterday brought us, we were pumped and ready to get out driving at the Hidden Valley Raceway here in Darwin.


Impulse Raycing on the Race Track

Luck was with us, as we were able to get Impulse out onto the raceway straightaway. The officials were excited to see our car out and driving; they also seemed to enjoy speaking to us each time we called to ask for yet another extension on the track. The track rules state that only four solar vehicles may be out on the track at a 30-minute interval, each with a chase vehicle following close behind. So at 10 AM, we got the go ahead and prepared our chase vehicle, the T5 Crew Van, to rayce out onto the track. Amando, our chase driver was excited to drive a manual vehicle on a raceway, and seemed to quite enjoy the winding turns and long straightaways even though he sometimes had trouble catching up to Impulse at the sharp turns.

Impulse moves to the right to allow another team, who isn't testing cruise control, pass us.

Speaking of driving on the raceway, myself and the three other drivers, Martin, Nicole, and Jessica, all had the time of our lives driving Impulse around the track. We did several shifts today, each of us driving between one and two hours. My experience driving Impulse up until now has been somewhat lackluster, but now that I have gotten more time in, I am beginning to enjoy driving it even more so than a regular car.

To speak of some of the differences: Impulse is much smaller and lower to the ground than a typical vehicle. This means that I have finer control about where I place myself with reference to the road. The acceleration is much slower than a normal car, which can be attributed to our high efficiency, low horsepower motor.

Impulse is also extremely stable. One of my largest problems at first was understanding how quickly I could take some of the turns. Several of the hairpin turns on Hidden Valley Raceway are extremely sharp, and while my gut instinct told me I should be slowing down to make sure the vehicle would not flip. However each time I went around the track, I pushed Impulse a little faster, up to the point where I was doing U-turns at 60 km/h.

Impulse is the best sauna that I've ever been in.

The other thing worth mentioning is how hot the driver feels while driving Impulse. At low speeds, it feels as if I am driving around a portable sauna. At higher speeds, some ventilation comes through the fairings, which cools the boiling air down. With regards to driver safety, the team also keeps a large two liter Camelbak that driver can drink through without moving too much, so we stay well hydrated and fairly comfortable. All four of us drivers had a blast today and cannot wait to get back out on the road tomorrow!

Tomorrow we’re having an early starting day (call time 7am at the track!) to do some more testing and prepare for the scruitineering in a few days.

Thanks for your support!