Swiss Energy Grand Prix 2015: Part 3 – The Race is On!

1stSEGPschweizstromcrohmabsswell, here we were. We had successfully completed the training session, had gained valuable information regarding energy consumption and speed and had basically one major problem: tire wear would be a problem. The Lignières circuit has one very sharp left corner plus to long lefts at relatively high speed. The load on the front right tire, specifically on its edge, was definitely excessive and it showed even after just one hour of training.

f1still, could be worse

we had already reduced tire pressure but that wouldn’t be enough. We had to exclude aggressive driving, at least over a long period of time. In theory we had to drive home on that set of tires we had on the car, all we had on site were two spares intended to compensate for a flat during the race. Thankfully, our calculations showed that a more conservative driving style would not necessarily be a disadvantage.

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We also discussed the track in detail, every corner, every straight. We had noticed lots of details regarding the track condition, what line to choose and where the optimum trajectory would be; we discussed all that between us to make the most of our collective effort.

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during the briefing, we were introduced to the detailed evening program; two thirty minute stops for shows on the track; other than that, just driving, lap after lap, throughout the night. The day hat been extremely hot, but thankfully, we were driving at night which would allow for pleasant temperatures.

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slowly, the big moment was approaching. One by one, cars were placed on the grid behind our official pace car – the 2012 winner of the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally.

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then, finally, the race was on!

of course, the track was crowded at first. Conflicts of interest in terms of strategy were obvious; cars with a more agressive and fast MO got stuck behind those who were aiming for a more economic driving style. One of them was the Chargelocator Model S; they had pulled off a nice show the night before, but now they were going slow and easy. it was clear that they were trying to get as many miles out of that battery as possible without charging.

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After a few laps, things slowly cleared up. Everybody was familiar with the track, passing slower cars got easier and easier and the field was distributed more evently around the track. Karl was our first driver; he managed to get through the excitement of the first few laps without trouble and soon settled for a continous speed and regular lap times.

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we measured lap times continously and discussed speed and consumption as time went by; from the results of the training session it was clear that having a strategy was one thing, but actually adapting our strategy to the current situation as time progressed would be the key to success. We decided for an early charging stop, ahead of everyone else, just before the first time out.

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we were quite satisfied with our consumption and our battery status. Also, as expected after the first time out most cars had to stop and charge (as charging was not allowed during the time out) which left the track to just a few cars, making it much more pleasant to cover continous lap times with little consumption. Things were going well.

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Alex was the second driver and managed to follow up to what Karl had begun. At our second charging stop, again before the next time out, no changes. Excellent battery status, great lap times, outstanding energy consumption (or rather, economy).

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After the second time out, no more forced stops. From now on it would be just our own decision when to stop and how to charge. David was next and was no less successful than the other two drivers before him.

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However, as the night progressed, things were slowly starting to deteriorate. For some reason, we no longer had the full charging power. Instead of the theoretical 43 kW our charger (and the Zoé) could handle, we were hovering around 26 to 30 kW, which meant that most of the advantage we were expecting due to fast charging was killed off. Even more, we could only hope that the other Zoé teams would encounter similar problems, because if they still had full charging power, things would be hopeless for us.

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The next drawback was the fact that after a certain point, regeneration was reduced. The Zoé is capable of up to 43 kW of regen power going back to the battery under braking; starting around 2:00 am though, we were stuck with a mere 15 kW of regen power, which meant that any breaking energy above that level would be destroyed mechanically in our brakes instead of going back into the battery. This in turn meant that our consumption went up dramatically; our strategy had just blown up in our face.

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Well, what’s left to do but to carry on? Since we did not have any kind of knowledge regarding the charger and battery management system of the Zoé, all we could do was make the most of it and go ahead with what we had. Our hope to make it to the top was gone but we were still determined to finish somewhere up front.

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And that’s what we did: carry on. We kept going through the night, charging whenever necessary, changing drivers to make sure everyone covered the mandatory drive time imposed by the regulations.

50swapping front right and rear left at 3am

That night was endless and short at the same time. We were wired, charged with electricity, under power.

Okay, no more fishy analogies from now on.

findthefishbecause that would be a completely different game.

Thanks to the fact it was early July, dawn was soon to arrive. it was quite magical to be on the racetrack in the dark and see daylight approach while our cars were moving lap after lap. And don’t forget that we’re talking about electric cars, so it was almost completely silent, only the occasional low key whiz from a car passing by would be audible.

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to spice things up a bit, there were two “Power Plays” where laps would count double. we had successfully completed the first one just after midnight, but the second one was still ahead of us – it was simply the last half hour of the race before the finish.

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At this point, we think we made a strategic mistake. We might have been distracted a bit, maybe we were just tired – remember we just had spent all night on the racetrack – in any event, we stopped for a last charge just before the last power play and we should have gotten back on the track earlier. Somehow we managed to charge an extra ten minutes we wouldn’t need and that’s when the BMW i3 snuck past us in the ranking. Dang!

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Nevertheless, the power play was extremely entertaining and since it was the final stint we made the most of it. Here’s some video footage to give you an idea…

And finally the arrival! We really made it through the night and saw the checkered flag at the end. What an experience!

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congratulations to the winners of this year’s Swiss Energy Grand Prix: Car number four, Zoé Team 1 from Renault Suisse. Great show guys!

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What’s left? Great memories of an incredible weekend and an incredible experience. We’re incredibly glad we participated and had one heck of a time. We’ve met great people and had loads of fun. Special thanks go to our photographer Stefan Ruf, about half of the pictures in our gallery are his work. You’ll find all pictures of our weekend in the gallery at the bottom of this post.

We would also like to thank Lorenz our video blogger, he also came along and created a video blog summary of our weekend. You can check it out here:

Please take a moment to see what he did, it’s really great. If you like what you see, share his video and perhaps like his channel!

And of course, last but not least one last “thank you” note to our sponsors who made all this possible for us!

schweizstrom

abss

crohm

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