First Australian Road Testing Day

After we have gotten the permit to test B-7 on the road, we wasted no time and started driving right away. The World Solar Challenge forbids teams to test their solar cars on the actual race route, Stuart Highway but we are allowed to test on a different highway called Cox Pennisula Rd.

In the morning, we practiced charging of the solar array and gathered data about our array performance. Then, we set out for Cox Pennisula Rd. We are already very practiced at getting B-7 out of the trailer and performing pre-drive checks but doing such tasks under the 40 degrees sun poses another challenge.

Shortly afterwards, Jane Liu, one of our three solar car drivers logged B-7’s first kilometres in Australia. We drove for about three hours on the first day and B-7 performed fantastic. We were able to practice radio communications, driving with other traffic (and other solar cars) and gather telemetry and strategy data. We plan to test B-7 more thoroughly in the next few days and fully characterize the car for the upcoming race.

Another step towards a successful 2013 World Solar Challenge!

B-7 Licensed to Drive on Australian Road

On this hot Monday afternoon, we had an inspection from the Northern Territory Department of Transportation. The officials performed a thorough check of the car’s mechanical and electrical system including suspension, turning signals, horn, and rear view camera. B-7 performed perfectly in all the tests and was granted a temporary license to test drive on the road. The official has also informed us that we are the 6th WSC team to have passed the inspection (and the 1st North American team).

This is a big milestone for the team because it gives us a whole week of testing time before WSC. More importantly, passing the initial inspection meant that B-7 has been built to WSC regulation and we will enter the static scrutineering session next week with more confidence.

Now we need to prepare the safety gears for the support vehicles and we will commence testing tomorrow morning!

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Getting B-7 ready for Australian road

Since our arrival this Tuesday, we have been hard at work to get B-7 ready for testing on Australian roads. In the past, we’ve always tested our solar vehicles in Canada and arrived in Darwin just in time for the WSC events to start. This year, we recognized that there are invaluable advantages for testing in Australia because of the very different climate (35+ degrees) takes a while to get used to for the solar car drivers as well as the crew members.

Due to shipping regulations and convenience, we had to disassemble many parts of B-7. The 21kg of lithium ion batteries on B-7 had to be disconnected and packaged individually to ensure safe transportation. The brake fluids had to be drained and anything that might come loose were taken off as well. After we picked up the car on Tuesday, we first checked for any signs of damage. Luckily, the only repair we had to perform was the lexan cover of the rear view camera which came loose during transportation.

Then, we launched right into the more important tasks of getting B-7 to driving condition. The electrical team re-assembled the battery box and re-connected the entire electrical system. The mechanical team bled the brakes with new brake fluid, re-aligned the suspension and fitted our newly machined rims for the Michelin tires. There are also many miscellaneous tasks for performance improvements such as making the top aerobody weather-proof and fix the small scratches and dents on the vehicle wrap.

Here we would like to express a special thanks to B&B Steel Fabrications and Auto Solutions NT. Both machine shops have helped the team with metal work that we don’t have the proper tools for. Thank you Terry, Gaeme, Brad & Cody for taking time out of your busy schedule to help us!

After 5 days of hard work, we have completed all of our goals. Next step: inspection by the Northern Territory Road Authority!

On Thursday night, we enjoyed a visit to the local night market. Team favourite has been the paella (fried rice with seafood)

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Race Crew Arrived in Darwin

After overcoming many obstacles such as missed connections, cancelled flights, changes to freight schedules, both B-7 and the remaining 14 members of our race crew have somehow found their way to Darwin. (Besides our electrical lead Zhe, who is still stranded in Tokyo due to a cancelled flight, but he will be here tomorrow).

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No need to adjust for the 14 hours of time difference, we got to work right away. Over the next few days, we will try to put B-7 back into running condition and obtain the permit to test B-7 on Australian road.

Here we would like to thank everyone who has helped us with this huge logistics challenge.

Thank you Topax for the crate, we look forward to sleeping on top of the crate during the race.

Thank you Agility Logistics, Celestica and DGC for your patience and support throughout the whole shipping process.

Thank you Move Yourself Trailer for sponsoring the much needed trailer for transporting our shipping crate.

Thank you 3M, Henkel, Vicor Power, SKF and countless other sponsors who have provided additional supplies for the race, usually with a very last minute notice.

Thank you to all of our sponsors, funding programs, and individual donors who have made this trip possible.

Now time to get to work so that we can start racing soon!

Race crew t-shirts
Race crew t-shirts

Race Route Survey Pt. 2: Alice Springs to Darwin

Out of Alice Springs, the first control stop was Ti Tree. The drive to Ti Tree was, surprisingly, covered with thick clouds. If this happens during the race, we would be really sad but luckily for the route survey team, the overcast weather meant less sunburn and cooler breezes.

 

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From Ti Tree, we set out for Devils Marbles which is another marvel of the Australia Outback, located conveniently just beside the Stuart Highway. Though these rocks are not as big or majestic as the Uluru. The smaller rocks definitely have their own beauty.

From Devils Marbles, it’s only 100km the next control stop, Tennant Creek. About 10km outside of Tennant Creek, we realized that we had a tire blow out on the trailer. Under the blazing hot sun, we had to inspect the damage and come up with an action plan. In theory, we should easily be able to replace the damaged tire with the equipped spare tire but unfortunately we didn’t have the correct wrench size for removing the wheel nuts.

Luckily, some locals passing by the Stuart Highway came to our aid. Here we would like to thank Dylan & Wade who not only had the correct tools but also stayed with us and helped us remove the damaged wheels and installed the new one.

Thanks Dylan & Wade!
Thanks Dylan & Wade!

From there, we drove safely from Tennant Creek to Dunmarra. Due to the time that we lost on the side of the road, when we arrived in Dunmarra it was already getting very late in the day and it’s not safe to drive in the Outback anymore. Once again we were saved by nice Aussies. In this case, the owner of the Dunmarra Roadhouse has generously agreed to let us stay at the Dunmarra caravan park free of charge. Thank you Gary!

The last day of driving was simple and drama free. From Dunmarra we reached Katherine. The segment from Katherine to Darwin was very hilly and we carefully noted all the big and small hills and compared with our elevation data.

On Friday afternoon, we arrived in Darwin. Though this marks the end of the race route survey and our first encounter with the Australian Outback, this is only the beginning of our World Solar Challenge Adventure. Stay tuned. The fun has only just begun!

Race Route Survey Pt. 1: Adelaide – Alice Springs

On Monday, Sept. 9, the advance team departed Adelaide to begin the drive up to Darwin to survey the race route. We are very excited to have this opportunity to verify our route GPS data and elevation data that we will use for our race strategy program. We will also take notes about road conditions, cattle grids, possible camp sites and anything else worth noting on this 3,000-kilometres of wilderness.

 

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Another important goal for the survey is to check out every control stop. There are slight changes to the control stop locations every year. Knowing exactly where we need to stop will make sure that we don’t waste time on the race trying to navigate.

 

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By the end of the third day, we have crossed South Australia and made our way to Alice Springs.