Welcome to the Outback - U-M Solar Car Races Across Australia

Uploaded by michiganengineering on 24.04.2012

>>We're right at the start line getting ready to race. It's incredible that it's finally
here. It's almost unreal. We've been waiting for such a long time that it's actually today.
We're starting the race today and right now it's incredible.
>>"This is the team from Michigan, University. To give you an idea, that vehicle has cost
them about $1.2 million dollars to make, so a serious investment. And here we have the
two Dutch teams..."
>>I have a dream of us on the road, but just barely ahead of all the other teams but we
were winning, but we're keeping ahead of them every step of the way. Yea, there's definitely
dreams about the race.
>>"Today, that dream comes true, and we welcome all the teams from all the countries around
the world who have chosen to come to Darwin and come to Australia to be apart of this event."
>>This is race number 18 for me, and I wouldn't be here if this wasn't the greatest thing going.
>>We're absolutely planning on winning. How could we make any other plans?
>>It's been a year, or you know, two years designing this car. This is what it's for, this day.
>>"Let's go blue!"
>>"Go blue!"
>>It's going to be complete chaos out of Darwin because it always is. It's a bathtub curve
with these cars, so they start off, you basically have failures because cars get old and bits
start falling apart and failures because there are new, untested systems. And coming out
of Darwin, everyone's just had their cars at the race track for weeks; they've been
tweaking, they haven't been on the road. So you have all sorts of problems, there's complete
carnage, there's cars passing, there's traffic, there's traffic lights, there's all sorts
of, yea, excitement on the road. Once we get basically to Katherine, then the race is
smooth sailing, hopefully.
>>A couple road trains that I passed or that passed me. There was just a huge gust
of wind, and rocks flew up on the windshield, that was kind of scary. And then passing Tokai
was a pretty intense moment, I know I got up to about 115 kilometers per hour. And it
was good to pass Tokai, the former world champion. It was also, you know, I had a really, kind
of a death grip on the steering wheel.
We started in third place and we passed Nuon, and so now we're in second place just behind
Tokai and it feels good.
"The headphone kept falling out like every 2 minutes."
It was a pretty rough day of driving, probably the most difficult day I've ever had in a
solar car. It was just windy, hot, and just a ton of traffic on the road.
"Really, really hot."
>>Most of the morning, Tokai, ourselves, and Nuon were neck and neck, so we expect that
to continue on the rest of the afternoon. Ryan had a great run for us driving. We're
putting in Troy now for the rest of the afternoon, keep him refreshed so that way Ryan doesn't
get overheated, over-tired in the car.
>>So we just got to Dunmarra. It's the second control stop on the route. We just drove here
from Katherine. Uh, the drive was very long, very hot, bumpy, very windy, so it was not
that pleasant of a drive. But we made it here and we're doing pretty well.
>>We're doing very good. We are now second, like one minute behind the Tokai and it's
going very good, very good.
>>We started from the fifth place, but we passed a few cars, and now we've reached first place.
>>At the last control stop, we didn't even see a fourth car so they were at least half an
hour behind us. And yea, so right now its looking like a three car race, really.
>>So we're feeling really good. We're right behind Nuon and Tokai so we are right neck
and neck. I think we traveled 716 kilometers or so, which is right near our target. To
get done in four days you need to hit probably 750 a day. So we're right next to that, which
is good. We stopped right at the very last second that you could stop during the day,
5:40 PM which means we'll start at 8:10 AM tomorrow. We found a really good camping spot.
It's a rest stop. We have a bathroom which is an extreme luxury out here in the outback.
And great places to charge in the evening, we're also on a hill for the morning which
is perfect. Feeling pretty calm at the moment. It's nice to be done with the first day.
>>"How many degrees, Santosh?"
>>It's an incredible experience to have, you know, to work on something for two years - design
it, build it, and then ultimately to race it, and see it succeed, which is just incredible.
Going into college I had no idea that I would be doing this momentous thing, but I applied
myself, and I kept on working towards it, and it happened eventually, and I learned
about myself, that if I apply myself, I can achieve anything I set out to do.
>>I think in terms of strategy, one thing that stands out was how we approached the first
day. During the first day we had a lot of problems with the driver radio, and we couldn't
communicate properly to the driver. That was crucial, because it meant that it made it
really hard to overtake Nuon and Tokai. It would have been a lot better if we were able
to overtake and drive at our own pace. So I think in terms of strategy, something that
we probably should have done was to stop the car while Ryan was driving, fix his radio,
which probably would have taken about a minute but it probably would have saved us 15 minutes/20
minutes worth of time.
>>"1, 2, 3, up!"
>>"Drivers, get as much rest as soon as possible. I still need to figure it out, but it shouldn't
take too long, just the driving order for tomorrow."
>>"I think we should also have another round of applause for our drivers."
>>So we are right neck and neck, so tomorrow will be an interesting day.
>>My name is Santosh Kumar and I am the head strategist of the Michigan Solar Car team.
Basically my job is to figure out how fast the car should go in various situations during
the race. I think that our biggest weapon is the fact that we pay attention to weather
more than other teams.
>>Radio sound is tied here to the bottom of the balloon and we've got about a hundred
feet of string between them. The balloon will probably go up about five kilometers, so three
point something miles. And during that time it will be collecting weather data. So that's
all these little things, and then inside the box there are a bunch of sensors that are
tracking temperature and pressure and humidity and things like that.
>>What we are going to see over the next couple days is basically teams trying to feel each
other out. See exactly what kind of performance the other cars can do. And plan their final
maneuver for the push to Adelaide.
The ultimate goal of strategy is to make sure we cross the finish line in first place. From
Darwin to Adelaide, that's 3000 kilometers. It's a very, very long way. One thing that
we have to do as strategists is to be patient. It's all right if somebody takes the lead
when you have 2000 kilometers to go, and that's what's been going on. People are going back
and forth in the lead.
>>Tears came to my eyes. I said, I can't believe I'm going to be here having so much fun! Seventy-seven
years old...I wonder if I'm going to be able to make it at seventy-nine.
"Oh, here they come...oh, oh, quick!"
>>"Joe, come straight through. Stay to the right of this cone. Stay to the right of this cone."
>>Uh, we are currently in, what's it called, Tennant Creek, on the control stop. The first
one of the day today on the second day of the race.
>>"Shoulders, 1, 2, 3, shoulders!"
>>The car is doing well. The wind is very strong today so we have to be cautious of that, but
other than that, the car has not stopped once, which is excellent. We are about two minutes
behind Nuon and about 12 minutes behind Tokai, so it's all really, really close.
>>Michigan is a few minutes behind us, so that's very exciting. We came in to this control
stop a few minutes after Tokai and we are now charging our battery. We will be chasing
Tokai for, yea, the number one position in this race.
>>Today it is very nice for us just to keep doing what we do. We didn't think about others,
we just think about us.
>>"3, 2, 1, go!"
>>We are moving forward as we want.
>>I joined the solar car team to really push myself. Just put myself up against the best
people and to see how I perform. And I think I figured that out. I learned how much it
would take for me to break: mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically. You know, if
you want to be the best in the world, you have to go near to those boundaries. You
have to be a bit crazy to do what we do.
>>"Good afternoon."
>>"How ya goin? Um, the road's closed over here, there's a fire in Barrow Creek."
>>"Oh, lovely."
>>"So, everyone's in here, so, you can go and hang out with them."
>>"Well this is interesting. I wonder how they're gonna take this in race time."
>>We are at...I actually have no idea how to say the name of this town. Wa-chope? That's
how I would say it with my Michigan accent. It's about 112 kilometers, I think, after
Tennant Creek, so we just did a control stop at Tennant Creek, that was a typical 30 minutes.
And then we heard that there might be brush fires down the way, which is exactly
what we've run into. So the next stop was supposed to be Barrow Creek, but we hadn't
made it there. The police have stopped everything on the road. So we just pulled into this little
hotel parking lot. We are currently being held here until the police say we can go,
or until the red shirt officials say we can go.
>>"What do you do with the fire on the side of the road?"
>>Just keep going and pray.
>>It's pretty crazy, definitely not something that we expected. As I understand it, everyone
that didn't make it to Tennant Creek is stopped up there so basically the whole race is on
a stop right now. And we're just waiting to see where these fires end up.
I'm quite certain we're staying here for the night. We're just waiting to hear...We're
supposed to have some sort of a fire briefing I think. Looks like they're making phone calls
to event headquarters, so we'll hear after they finish that conversation.
>>So you're here for tonight. You'll start in the morning as if it's a normal control stop.
Questions of charging and the time of starting will be resolved by a panel tonight and relayed
to you as soon as we know something ourselves.
>>The feeling is very good. At the moment we're driving a nearly perfect race for us. It's
just going fine. The fires mess things up a bit, but we'll see what happens tomorrow
and what changes for the strategy.
>>So, today for all of the crazy stuff that went on, it went very well. Sounds like we
spent zero time on the side of the road, right?
Got out of Tennant Creek..
>>Like Rachel said, we are on a level playing field. We are going back into Southern Australian
territory which we know very well. We know the hills very well, and the hills will be
a good place to attack and exploit Tokai's weakness.
The plan for today is just to keep pace with Nuon and Tokai. Tokai seems to be traveling
pretty quickly. We want to make sure that we stay with them and keep in position for
the final push to Adelaide.
>>For a few seconds I wasn't able to see anything.
It was really, interesting.
It was basically
large flames next to the road. A large plume of smoke coming straight across the road.
So we went right through that, and continued on. It was really interesting.
I was just driving with
one hand, holding the other hand over the vent in front of me so I didn't get
any smoke in the car. I just got through it and held my breath for a few moments and it
was all good.
>>"It was scary though the fire?"
>>"It wasn't too bad. Yea we got stopped for a few minutes."
>>"Yea we had a situation that could have been very dangerous. The fire...there was suddenly
very big smoke, you couldn't see anything. We got out of the smoke and there was a road
train coming."
>>"There was one section for us, probably where you guys did that. I think they stopped us
right there."
>>"And in those few minutes, the fire set, or?"
>>"Haha, no, it was still there. It didn't make any difference at all."
>>Before solar car, I was, I guess I'd call myself a fairly timid person; I wasn't that
comfortable talking with people. I kind of pushed for things, but on the safe side. In
solar car, I had to change all of that, push those boundaries. I think that it's a really
good thing that I'm a very different person and I'm a more assertive and confident person.
I'm ready to work with people who are doing a hundred different things.
>>"Oh well we were just taking a bike ride to Alice Springs."
>>"We were just riding past and then I realized, there are the solar cars, so we stopped to
come and have a look. It's great."
>>"Well we've been traveling for six months, so it's great to see something like this."
>>"I love the whole concept of solar. It's definitely nice and sunny and hot down here."
>>The ride to Alice Springs was very smooth. But I think an hour before we got to Alice
Springs we noticed there was a problem with one of our maximum power point trackers that
basically connects a part of the solar panels to the battery. We will have to do a replacement,
and since we can't do it at a control stop technically, we will be rolling our car from
here to the corner over there and proceeding with the switch. It should only take a minute.
>>A solar car is much different than driving a normal car you'd usually drive. Obviously
it's not constructed for the driver's comfort in any sort of fashion. So when you're in
there you are cramped into an awkward position. You're kind of sitting on your tailbone.
There's only one vent that lets the air in, so that's all you have to cool yourself. And
that vent doesn't work unless you're going above 40 miles per hour. And the temperature of
the car'll reach 30 degrees above ambient.
>>Right now we're at the Kulgera control stop. Right now we're neck and neck to Nuon. We're
about four minutes back but we're thinking we're gaining on them. So it's kind of an
exciting feeling.
>>It's a bit of a cat and mouse game a lot of times. Especially when teams are in such close
quarters like us. We've camped at the same site for three nights in a row. It was a dog
fight the first day, and it will be a dog fight continuing on.
>>"So many insects here. They're all over the place. This guy wants to go though."
>>We're doing our nightly checks so basically going over every nut and bolt on the car,
making sure it's all safe, nothing came loose during the day. We're also changing all the
tires out for fresh tires for tomorrow. The bearings in it are made for electric motors
so they're really smooth bearings with almost no resistance so it will just keep spinning
for a long, long time.
>>"Pretty good day today."
>>"We all need to go out tomorrow and give 100%."
>>"Let's put everything we can in lead and chase, so we're not dependent on another vehicle."
>>A lot of solar car racing, according to Santosh, our head strategist, is much like cycling,
or much like any kind of long endurance race, where, there's a lot of head games involved.
Strategy is a lot more than just looking at the weather and saying, "Oh it's sunny, let's
drive fast!" Basically, a lot of the strategist's job is also to evaluate the other cars on
the road, and in this case there are two right next to us. So we're trying to figure out
the performance of those cars. And so when cars drive fast, you can assume they have
lots of charge and they're probably performing better than us, or you can just assume that
they're driving faster than us to try and fake us out. So there's a lot going on that
just, it's a lot more complicated than it originally seems. So right now, our strategists
are trying to figure that out at the same time as the other strategists. Going on towards
tomorrow, it sounds like we will be starting at 8 AM, or just about 8 AM, just a few minutes
behind Tokai and Nuon.
>>It's going to be really interesting tomorrow because we can hopefully have an opportunity
to make the pass and then go for first.
>>My hair probably looks fantastic right now. I just woke up. Oh my God, what day is it?
Day 4? We're in Kulgera. This morning our driver will be driving 390 kilometers, which
is very long. It's almost five hours of driving, so in a solar car, that's quite a long time.
Our plan for today is a very aggressive one. We want to try and catch Tokai who are 40
minutes ahead of us. In the meantime while we are doing that, we will probably either
pass Nuon at some point.
>>It's very exciting, Michigan is right behind us and team Tokai is in front of us. The plan
for today is a very strategic plan, but also a mind game between different teams: Tokai,
but also Michigan. So I'm not really going to elaborate on the plans of today. You'll
see by the end of the day where we are. You'll see the distance between us and other teams.
>>In terms of Nuna, Nuna won four times in a row, 2nd the fifth time, and we hope to make
them 3rd this time.
>>During the first couple of hours when we were going so fast, going 103 kilometers per hour,
it was suddenly very encouraging because we were getting reports from our media vehicle,
our weather vehicle and our scout vehicles about the locations and speeds that Tokai
and Nuon were going. It was very apparent that we were slowly but surely catching up
to them. We finally saw Quantum show the performance that we knew all along it was capable of.
>>We had a big tail-wind to start off with. It became a cross-wind and at one point the
windowed fairing sort of opened up.
>>It's the part of the car that hinges open so we can steer.
>>And it caught the wind just right and flew off. And when it flew off, I had no idea what
it was in the beginning because it was just a loud noise and when they told me to slow
down, I guess I figured it out pretty quick what it was. It was at that moment that I
realized we were going to lose some time.
>>"Damn, someone made this really tight."
>>The wind caught the fairing and it flapped open.
>>We didn't have any on our support vehicles so we have to wait for the trailer to come.
>>That caused us quite a bit of a delay on the side of the road. I think we lost about a
half hour there.
>>And sitting on the side of the road, you knew that your chances at winning were automatically gone,
at that second, which is not a fun thing to think about. So it's kind of frustrating.
>>Yep, you can't have that happen if you want to win.
>>I think everyone is a little disappointed right now. But we'll see what happens. There's
no guarantee that Nuon and Tokai can stay on the road either.
>>Two road trains went by at the same time and they ripped this off, again. So the second
time in two hours that we've had the same issue. It's kind of unfortunate, but, yea.
>>The replacement fairing that we just put on doesn't exactly fit, so we're just trimming
some edges down a bit so that it fits. It's a safety issue because the tire was rubbing
against the new fairing and we don't want to blow out a tire and cause our driver to
lose control.
>>Rough day today, humbling day.
>>We knew the cross-winds could kind of blow the car around a little bit and we've had
times where fairings flapped open, but today we lost a fairing, twice, which is...I mean
what are you going to do about that? It's just terrible luck.
>>"It's a safety issue. Drivers first, and then Gerald has the call about how fast we can
drive, and you guys should continue to push. If you think the car can go faster, tell Gerald
that. Don't give up on that, because maybe the winds will die down and so we can go 105
again. So don't give up now, because we have plenty of chances. Hundreds of kilometers
yet to go."
>>"Do you know how shitty it is sitting in Chase for two hours watching the car charge?
I'm ready to go. It just seems like there's a lot of resistance to going the speeds I want to go."
>>"There is. Absolutely there is, and it's a safety issue, and you have to respect that. So you
should say "go faster" and Gerald should say "no we have to go slower" and you should say,
"fine, as soon as we can go faster, go faster." Like keep pushing, don't give up."
>>I think everyone is a little disappointed right now. But we'll see what happens. There's
no guarantee that Nuon and Tokai can stay on the road either. It's really not a limit
of energy right now, it's just safety that's inhibiting us.
>>Emotions have kind of been up and down today. Obviously really frustrated, and hard seeing the
team so down after the first fairing came off. And people were really frustrated and
worried about the wind and kind of at one another. And that's bothersome. It seems like
even though it happened again, things are a little bit more optimistic at the moment
even though we are pretty far behind. So we'll see how tonight goes.
We are in Glendambo. Glendambo is a town we remember well from doing our mini mock race
up in South Australia. We're finally in South Australia, so that's good. It's a tiny town,
and we're here, now it's the third night in a row we're at a control stop.
It's a little bit unusual. It's kind of a crazy day. Today I think we ended about an hour behind
Nuon and an hour and a half behind Tokai. Kind of shitty that we found a new problem
for the first time with the fairings on the race, and it happened twice in the same day.
And obviously it sucks that we found we're speed limited based on the stability of the
car. You guys probably know that tomorrow we have a little bit less than 600 kilometers
to go before we reach end of timing. And in that time, considering the top speed can only
be 110, Nuon and Tokai will probably be cruising somewhere close to that. We pretty much need
them to make a mistake if we're going to get better than third place. But at this
point, with us being so close to the end, I hope that everyone can adopt a good mindset
for this last 600 k. Because, you guys have put an incredible amount of work into this
team, and no matter how we finish tomorrow we can finish with our heads held high. Don't
forget what this team has done, and don't be down about being 3rd in the world, because
that's pretty damn good.
>>We're the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan does not quit, does not slow down.
We go as hard as we can, as long as we can. Let's keep our heads up, let's look forward,
and just keep going until we get there.
>>I think it's the saying of the day...life goes on.
So right now we are trying to get
in a morning charge on the last day of racing. The end is near, after two years of preparing for this.
Today we are planning on pushing for the finish line, pushing with our full
potential of the car, making sure we can go as fast as we can, and if any of our competitors
make mistakes, we'll be right on their heels, trying to pass them.
>>We've always known how to build a good solar car, but we've never really known how to build
a fantastic solar car. And I think this project we learned that. And that is a great lesson
to know going forward. After the World Solar Challenge in 2009, it was really obvious that
we were really far behind in terms of engineering capability, design capability, construction
capability, but that gap needed to be overcome if we wanted to design a car that was more efficient,
fast enough to win the race. This year you had first day, second day, third day, you
had no idea who was going to win. We built a car that was really efficient. It was the
robustness and the reliability that kind of did us in the end. That's not a very difficult
problem to fix. And I think going forward, the team will have easier problems
to try and figure out if they want to win.
>>Timing officially just ended. We placed third behind Tokai and Nuon, the same 1-2-3 as
last year.
>>We had a pretty exciting last hundred kilometers. The battery dropped a lot lower than we expected,
so we had to go pretty slow. So it was exciting, and now it's very relieving that it's finally
over. Very relieving.
>>Michigan has now come in 3rd place five times. Five times out of ten races which is pretty
incredible. Talk about consistency! It's great to be top 3, you could say, but it's a little
bit, it's a little bit hard to see us get the same place again when we worked so hard, completely
with the intention of placing higher, so there is some disappointment there. But I think
that we did an incredible job, and that, we made some changes that I think are going to
last a really long time. We put the team in a great position for future years. My hope
is that everyone here, everyone on the team is going to be rooting for the next team and
pushing to beat this record next year, because that's the first thing that we want, just
put ourselves in a good position, and we'll be back again, and I think we have a great
shot of doing it in the future.
>>"Go hard, go blue, is that what you say?"
>>"Yea, go blue!"
[Singing] "Hail! to the victors valiant. Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes. Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the leaders and best. Hail! to the victors valiant, hail to the conqu'ring heroes. Hail!
Hail! to Michigan, the champions of the West. Go Blue!"
>>I've talked to some alumni from the 90s, say, Furqan, for instance who led the team in '93,
about looking back at what the whole solar car experience did for him. And when you're
so close, relatively speaking. We're still just a few months out. The emotions of certain
times in the whole solar car experience kind of are the first things that come to your mind.
And those can be intense stress or intense excitement or whatever you were feeling during
the race, but that's not really what...in the long run, that's not really what matters.
It's how you dealt with all of those things. It would have been definitely been easier,
emotionally, to win. And if you believe that doing things that aren't easy makes you stronger,
which I think makes good sense, then yes, I'd say that not getting 1st place made us,
in some ways, stronger. I think that, in some ways, it was a bad thing clearly because it
kind of knocked down our confidence, and for a while, at least made me feel
angry and disappointed and a lot of negative emotions. But having to work through those
and coming full circle, I guess, to see that going through all the emotions of sort of
anger and denial, and those things to come back and see the value of this experience,
having to go through all of that, I think definitely made us stronger.