Start of Day charging begins promptly at 7 am, and by the end of charge time at nine, Aurum’s battery pack is nearly full. The UM team is in a good place.
Day 2 is fairly sunny, and based on the weather models, Aurum can drive at the speed limit again. Driving at the speed limit, Aurum reaches the end of Stage 1 at 11:02 am, winning this first stage about two hours ahead of current second place team Principia.
ASC race structure consists of four stages, each punctuated by a number of checkpoints. When a solar car stops at a checkpoint, it gets forty-five minutes to charge before getting back onto the road again. At stage stops, however, the car gets fifteen minutes of charge and then must wait as other teams continue to pull in for the End of Day charge period at six pm, which ends at eight pm. After the Start of Day charge the following day, whichever team is in first overall starts the following stage first.
This year, in commemoration of the National Parks Service 2016 Centennial, ASC organizers partnered with the National Parks Service Midwest Region, and all end-of-stage and checkpoint locations were national parks or historic sites, making for a very scenic race through the heart of the nation.
Today, the University of Michigan awaits End of Day charging in George Rogers Clark National Historical Park of Vincennes, Indiana.
After winning the FSGP and thus beginning the race in pole position, Michigan has retained its lead, ensuring it will start Stage 2 first tomorrow after the Start of Day charge. The team’s solid performance thus far is encouraging, especially considering the predetermined time penalty it acquired going in.
This penalty stemmed from the fact that Aurum was originally designed for the 2015 World Solar Challenge, whose regulations differ from the American Solar Challenge. Some of the changes the team made to the car were not detrimental, like the wiring of additional signal lights. However, the bump protruding from Aurum’s right side meant a six minute penalty on every day of the race.
The team had to add this bump because ASC safety rules require a six-inch crush zone encircling the driver. The roll cage met impact requirements and Altair’s Hyperworks software confirmed driver safety in the absence of such a crush zone, but despite this, the team still had to add six inches of space to the driver’s right side.
This addition worried the team on two counts: aerodynamics and penalization.
The bump fulfilled one regulation, but broke another: the car was now too wide. Thus, before even starting the race, Michigan found itself facing a penalty of six minutes added onto every day—a deficit of 48 minutes over the course of the entire race.
The bump cost the team elsewhere, too. It made the car less aerodynamic. The penalties were minutes, but a serious problem in aero could cost Michigan hours. Support from Ford allowed Michigan testing time at Jacobs Wind Tunnel prior to the race, which enabled the team to quantify the aerodynamic hit caused by the bump. This translation to tangible numbers allowed the team to incorporate this aerodynamic setback into its strategy models.
Despite a strong performance thus far, the team knows better than to relax. The race is still close and six days lie ahead. “I’m proud of the fast, clean race we’ve run so far, but the race is far from over,” Team Leader Shihaab Punia notes. “Let’s carry that momentum through the next six days.”