I got back to Corvallis yesterday afternoon after an amazing night of dancing up in Portland. The dance in Portland was a much needed re-connection with dancing and dancers. The few weeks I returned to Ashland were rough on my dancing self with no Blues dancing to be heard of. But the drive up Oregon was pleasant and the dance was phenomenal.
As soon as I returned to Corvallis at 2:00 I swung by the shop to help with the car. I spent the next few hours extending wires to make room for the crush zone (which is a new regulation of the race). Mostly tedious work, but it was awesome to get my hands on the car and work on something electrical that I have little experience with. Stripping, crimping, and matching colors. Thus the life of an electrical engineer? I worked on various projects until about 7:00 and then crashed at a friends house.
That reminds me, I am currently without housing. After various attempts and frustrating leads, I am still in the market for a place to lie my head for the next school year. I am currently in communication with a friend about another possibility that feels promising. Something will work out when it needs to.
Today was driving day! Showed up at the lab early, ready to test out the car, and then the problems started. We didn’t get out of the shop until after 11, but we did get a lot done! More extensions and wire organization, motor barrier for debris protection, troubles with reading battery level, just to name a few things.
For me, it turned into a frustrating goose chase for necessary bolts that didn’t exist, jerry-rigging with zip-ties and overall confusion. Which tends to be the theme right now. I imagine it will be a while until I feel confident about anything on the car. I am excited to learn and hopefully eventually understand all the components of the car. This will certainly be easier as we design and build an entirely new car during the next school year.
Finally we brought it out for a spin and some new driver training! I am going to drive it in both the races! There are two races, one three-day race on a course in Texas, the other eight-day on roads from Texas to Minnesota. More on that in future posts.
This is a good shot to see the arrays all along the surface of the car.
After some practice getting in and out in under 10 seconds(another race regulation), I got to take a few laps around the parking lot. Good practice considering the last solar car caught on fire and exploded. Proficient exiting maneuvers kept the driver mostly unharmed.
It was awesome! You really feel like your in a race car. Sitting down in the frame of your Star Wars(esque) pod, there is no escaping the feeling that you are in the future. Also, the low stature and (slightly) shaky frame make you feel like your going REALLY fast when I probably didn’t exceed 40(the tablet was out of order so I don’t know for sure). The car maxes out at about 60-65 mph, with a optimal efficiency around 40 mph.
Things like the display for speed and energy input/output, control of turn signals, horn, and hazard lights are on a tablet that is mounted on the steering wheel. It is kinda crazy to boot up Windows 8 to control a car.
Many people have asked about how the car works when the sun is not out. I did not have a satisfactory answer, considering I did not build this car and know little about it. But I learned a lot today and figured I would share some of my new discoveries. Most of the energy that is used when the car is moving, is coming from stored energy in the battery(we have a massive battery). When the sun is out, the battery is of course recharging at least a little bit. However, we only break even while driving(output for driving=input from rays) around midday in Texas. Usually though, there is a negative balance so the battery is slowly draining. This works out because it is recharged during down time between races. And as a rough estimate, with a full battery, the car could travels about 100 miles at night. Another thing to keep in mind, the type of solar arrays that must be used on the curved surface of the car are not nearly as efficient as the stationary ones you might see on houses.
That is it for now. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. Also, I am going to send the link for this blog to everyone I think would be interested, but if you know someone who I overlooked, please feel free to send them the link. This is the beginning of a fantastic adventure that I wish to share with anyone who is interested.
Driving in the parking lot behind Reser stadium.