Baja 1000 Goes Electric With New Solar-Powered Category

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The Sun Cup Challenge sounds like something you might find in a Mario Kart video game, next to the Mushroom Cup and Star Cup, but the reality is much more significant.

This year, the Sun Cup Challenge is a competition within the mighty Baja 1000 race, where competitors tackle a thousand miles of sun and desert on the Baja peninsula in Mexico.

What sets the Sun Cup participants apart is their choice of power--electric propulsion, using solar-generated electricity.

For most vehicles, the Baja is a struggle to even complete, with only 49 percent of starters making the finish, and solar-powered electric vehicles competing in the Sun Cup Challenege will be the first of their kind to do so.

It's all about proving that electric vehicles can compete against--and beat--their fossil-fueled counterparts.

With electric cars also competing at high levels in this year's Pikes Peak International hill climb, and with a hybrid vehicle winning at Le Mans back in June, we're now at a point where alternative-fuel vehicles aren't just more efficient than their regular cousins, but potentially quicker too.

What's more, development in the harshest of conditions can only benefit future road cars--just as racing has always proven.

The 2012 Baja 1000 runs from Ensenada to La Paz, and takes place from November 14-17.


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Comments (6)
  1. Well, how is this different from the traditional sun race? Powering the car by "solar" alone won't make sense at all. It is physics. Solar energy is about 1KW per square meter at equator on a perfect day with low moisture level and 90 degreee angle. So, we need at least 20 - 30 sq meters (200-300 sq feet) just to power a scooter... That is assuming 100% efficiency. Teh best solar panels out there are 18-20% at BEST (lab environment). So, you need about 1000 ft^2 of solar panels just to produce 25 HP (assume 95% efficiency)...

    Silly race.

  2. The only way to called "solar based" race is to use solar panels (large arrays) to generate power and save it in battery, then use that battery power during the race...

    But it is still silly to call it a "race"...

  3. You misunderstand how the race will take place. Doubtful solar panel arrays will be on the race vehicles but possibly at the "pit stops" along the race route like for fossil fuel vehicles. The EVPVs will then simply swap out their used up batteries for fully charged batteries. The big questions for me are how far will these solar charged batteries take these EVPVs and how fast is the battery swap. If the range is 200+ miles for the batteries and the swap time is less then 30 min, you might see the EVPVs do better then most folks expect. Very doubtful they will finish well compared to fossil fueled vehicles for at least a few years though.

  4. Well, it wasn't clear in the article. I serious doubt the battery will have 200 miles range in "race condition". Let us say it does and gets about 4 miles/KWh (about what Tesla's optimal range is). That is a 50KWh battery. To charge that thing up, you are talking about 8 hrs of sun at best and a 6KWh Solar panel system. For a typical household system, 6KW is about 27-30 panels in size. That is a "large system" to be "hauled" by the team to follow the race... Not to mention all the battery charging system. All those assumptions are also "ideal" conditions.

    At that point? Is it really a race with all the "overhead" involved. I admire their intent and goal. But the logistic of it is just terrible.

  5. Sorry, I should have made it clearer. I thought the term "using solar-generated electricity" was enough to suggest that they were recharging as normal, but using electricity generated by solar power, rather than panels on the vehicles themselves.

  6. well the trick is are they going to run some sort of fast charge using a Level 3 supercharger and a bunch of cheap lead acid batteries on a truck, or are they going to charge up replacement cells and do a battery swap on the racer out in the Baja? In which case it would seem easier to just have fully charged battery packs and a pit crew hanging out somewhere.

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