Before the Sun Trip 2018 solar bikes return to Europe by train this November, the organization brought back Raf Van Hulle’s solar panels to France. Raf is the winner of this edition’s Solar Challenge.
Testing was conducted in order to confirm compliance with article 3.3 from our Technical Regulations which reads as such: “When the vehicle is moving, a minimum of 100 Wp (minimal surface 0.5 m2) and a maximum of 450 Wp (maximal surface 2.5 m2) photovoltaic cells must be visible at all times on the cycle and/or the trailer.”
Several indications rose doubt regarding such compliance, most notably the fact that Raf Van Hulle arrived in Canton without his Databox, a sort of black box that was installed on every solar bike to collect useful technical data (such as recharge, consumption & production). The Belgian participant claimed that it was stolen a few days only before his arrival. This unverifiable incident happened as the databox yet has to gain official status in the Sun Trip Regulations. The box had not been thought of as a control tool at the arrival but more as a way to gain insight in solar bikes research.
With the full agreement of said participant, the recent panels test revealed no Technical Regulations breach. Both solar panels were fully compliant, Raf Van Hulle being equipped with 390 Wp out of 450 Wp allowed.
The Organization laments not having been able to carry out solar panel power testing prior to departure, apologizes and thus will improve its Technical Regulations for future editions.
In addition to the solar panels power compliance, the organization also had to debate on the fact that Raf Van Hulle arrived in Canton without his own sealed mains charger despite it being noted in his Technical Logbook from technical inspection. Van Hulle claimed he left his charger in Chamonix before Start Proper « because it did not work well, and Guillaume Devot (Technical Director) was informed. » This information has never been denied. The situation is nonetheless problematic, but considering that Raf Van Hulle has almost always camped in the wild, that he slept only four nights under a roof during his whole trip and that his performances are perfectly regular from Lyon to Canton, the organization felt that this doubt was not sufficient to disqualify a participant whose honesty has never been questioned during his 2013 and 2015 participations.
Finally, some participants questioned the organization on Raf Van Hulle’s use of highways during the Chinese part of the trip. The organization notes that Van Hulle is far from being the only one to have used them. Placed before a fait accompli, not having the ability to know remotely which highways (or highway stretches) tolerated bikes, and taking into account that all adventurers had at some point no other choice but to take a highway (in the Xinjiang Region in particular), the organization told participants they should act in good faith. No sanction has been taken on anyone on this point. At best, the organization was advised to avoid certain tunnel portions reported by the participants ahead of the pack or, in the final part, locations where incidents happened with the police.
On these issues of the mains charger and of highways in China, the organization will also need to provide more efficient answers in future editions. These questions will soon be discussed with the 2018 participants during the event’s assessment.
It is also important that we take advantage of this statement to announce Guillaume Devot’s departure from the organization team and from his position as Technical Director. During the Summer, Guillaume expressed several disagreements, especially with Sun Trip director Florian Bailly when it came to deciding the best way to deal with aforementioned issues with Raf Van Hulle’s arrival. He left office in early September, before any testing could be done. He did not take part in the decisions outlined above but he will be involved in the Databox analysis work.
The Sun Trip organization wishes to sincerely thank him for all that he brought to the Sun Trip on those four years. The adventure entered in another dimension thanks to him.
Organizer of the Sun Trip, The Sun Trip Company also withdrew from the Solar Moov System SAS building La Sun Travel solar trailer, of which 3 units were used in this 2018 edition, notably by the participant ranking 2nd position on the Solar Challenge. This decision was taken in order to limit potential conflicts of interest. The organization of the Sun Trip will no longer be directly involved in any technical set-up present on a Sun Trip international edition and members of the organizing team will no longer be involved in the participation of an adventurer.