Internode Blog

Arrival in Darwin

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 by

Today I arrived  and joined the rest of our wonderful team of people ready to start the event.

We arrived at the Hidden Valley Racetrack in Darwin – being used for preparations and testing for event vehicles.

First charging test in Darwin

First charging test in Darwin

We pulled the car off of our trailer (much to the interest and attention of the solar car teams working on their vehicles around us), washed the dust from the trip off of it, and did a short test charging run with the generator set.

This had its challenges. While the testing worked fine in Adelaide…(you guessed it)… its not quite as smooth here at first.

In particular, and perhaps because of the heat (37 C predicted, 44 C measured by the in-car thermometer out on the bitumen, and perhaps 60C+ in the sun where the car was – with no shade)… charging became a bit more of a challenge.

We have this large generator set so we can charge the car at the maximum possible rate it can take (240 Volts @ 70 Amps) to minimise the top-up time in the middle of the day for the long stage runs coming up.

(I’ll explain the story behind the generator some more in another post)

But clearly the car didn’t like charging at full ‘grunt’ (almost 17 kilowatts!) in all this heat. It started off complaining intermittently about a ‘charging error’… potentially due to some aspect of using generator power that is confusing the charging system a tad; We’ve seen this before.

But the more ‘interesting’ thing was an eventual in-car diagnostic to the effect that the ‘coolant system’ had failed and required servicing. I’m making some enquiries, but I have taken this to mean that it simply got too darn hot. We shut down the charging process and decided to try again in morning or evening – and at any rate, in shade, to see if that avoids the issue.

(Update: feedback from Tesla matches our own ideas in the meantime – which we had already acted upon: We have bought a large fan to point at the car during very hot weather charging, to let the cooling system clear the hot ambient air it creates. We have no shortage of power to drive fans! We look forward to trying this out again after our first driving stage to Katherine on Saturday, that being the next time we’ll need to do a full power-level charge)

The car was otherwise fine – we had a lot of media interest today – the event organisers lined up a film crew from ABC national TV, which I’m told aired tonight. But by that time of the night, we were having a conversation about the days’ activities while floating in the hotel pool – and being in the pool felt soooo good :)

I did a number of runs around the racetrack with cameras whirring and snapping, and a few initial interviews about the event and our involvement in it. And drank a lot of water.

Note to self: keep drinking lots of water. Did I mention that its hot here?

Charging overnight in storage areaMeantime, we’ve put the car away for the night in a secure spot here, and I’ve plugged in the 12A portable charging cable to a wall socket, which will have the car full by morning anyway (it was only half empty even after quite a few demonstration laps on the track).

We’ll sort out the charging challenge over the next few days – starting with some test runs at 10A and progressively winding it up in 10A increments back up toward 70A again.

However we slice it, the further south we get during the event, the cooler and less humid it’ll become – which has to help. The humidity might be contributing to the trouble that the cooling system in the car appeared to be having today.

Anyway – a great start today, really – lots of smiling faces, and its a long, long way from Adelaide. A touch over 3000 km’s according to my GPS.

Its going to be quite a journey, starting on Saturday.

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