UM, WMU Solar Car Teams Gear Up To Race 1,100 Miles

UM, WMU Solar Car Teams Gear Up To Race 1,100 Miles
June 15, 2010/GLITR

In a solar-powered vehicle that reached 100 mph in testing, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team is aiming for a third consecutive North American title. The team is in Cresson, Texas, this week testing the car in preparation for the 2010 American Solar Challenge, which begins June 20.

Meanwhile, a team from Western Michigan University whose solar car in the last competition suffered catastrophic damage due to a stray wind gust on the last day of testing is also in Texas for the event.

"No one we have spoken to has ever heard of a solar car reaching 100 mph and a UM car has never reached it," said Rachel Kramer, the UM team's project manager. "Our goal for the 2010 American Solar Challenge is to win Michigan's sixth North American championship. We hope to win an unprecedented third consecutive title."

The week-long, biennial competition for solar-powered vehicles runs from Tulsa, Okla., to near Chicago.

The UM Solar Car Team built its first vehicle, Sunrunner, in 1990, and has amassed five North American titles since winning the inaugural event two decades ago. The team's 10th-generation vehicle, Infinium, was unveiled in June of last year and placed third in the 2009 Global Green Challenge, a 1,880-mile race across Australia formerly known as the World Solar Challenge.

The American race, which was formerly the North American Solar Challenge, alternates years with the Australian competition (essentially the world championships for solar vehicles).

The last time the American Solar Challenge was held, in July 2008, it was a 2,400-mile race from Dallas to Calgary, Canada. This year, the race will run just 1,100 miles, from Tulsa, Okla., to Naperville, Ill.

"The race is structured to be less of an endurance competition this year," Kramer said, "and more like a series of one- or two-day-long sprints. This will offer unique challenges from a race strategy perspective."

In testing at the high-speed oval track at Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Proving Ground in Romeo, UM's Infinium exceeded 100 mph for more than 30 seconds, reaching a top speed of 105 mph.

The team receives donations from hundreds of corporate and private sponsors. Major sponsors include the College of Engineering, AT&T, Delta, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors.

The Solar Car Team is one of the largest student teams at Michigan, comprising hundreds of students from a range of different schools and colleges.

"Over the course of the two-year Infinium project, there have been about 150 students involved with the team in some capacity," says Kramer, a neuroscience major in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. "For this particular race, we have a crew of 19 students who will be traveling with and racing the car."

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Meanwhile, the WMU solar race car Sunseeker was unveiled June 10 on the school's Kalamazoo campus, just hours before a team of student engineers were scheduled to head to Texas for a round of race qualifying events.

The sleek, gold three-wheeled vehicle was given its first public exposure as team members, families, engineering faculty and staff, and area media gathered to view it during a brief ceremony at WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The new Sunseeker is lighter and more aerodynamic than previous WMU racers, weighing in at about 650 pounds with the driver on board.

The new Sunseeker has been in development for the past 18 months. A team of 10 engineering students and two advisors will head to Cresson for the ASC qualifying events -- four days of 'scrutineering' to evaluate all the vehicle systems and the FSGP track race to ensure the vehicles are up to the demands of the road trip.

This year's race marks the 10th time WMU students have participated in the biennial ASC solar race that features the best engineering schools from the United States and Canada. WMU vehicles have placed as high as sixth and captured best design awards in post-race ceremonies. WMU is one of only a handful of teams in North America to have participated in all nine previous races.

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Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 (Archive on Wednesday, November 11, 2015)
Posted by rcline  Contributed by rcline