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The American Solar Car Story
The purpose of this article is to discuss the technological innovations that the Michigan Solar Car team has brought to the automotive industry. This project was successfully completed by a small group of 100 of Michigan’s brightest students and their 300 sponsors.
I recently went to the Detroit Auto Show 2010. It was amazing! So much magic and so many vehicles to choose from. But in this article I’m not going to talk about car companies and their vehicles… I’m going to discuss one vehicle that was promoted twenty years ago and had a huge response from its sponsors and students from the University of Michigan. . Yes, we are talking about the 10th generation of the UM school’s solar car called “Infinium”. What a remarkable solar vehicle! His team’s mission was successful. The UM Solar Car team won several racing awards in two competitions, national and international.
One of the young members of the team, a second-year student, told me how proud he was of the achievements of the whole team, the wide range of cutting-edge technologies and the many innovations of the team.
The Michigan Solar Car Races celebrated their 20th year of existence. What an achievement!
The solar car team has won most of the North American championship, five times out of nine. He finished 3rd in the World Championship competition, three times. That’s a great performance.
It all started twenty years ago when a group of enthusiastic students from Michigan won the GM Sunrayce. The Sunrunner 1990 solar car took 1st place in the GM Sunrayce and 3rd place in the World Solar Challenge.
Advances in battery technologies used in solar vehicles have helped lead to a breakthrough in hybrids. Its carbon fiber bodywork shared similar uses in Grand Prix racing cars and commercial aircraft.
Regenerative braking systems have been used since 1989 and implemented in hybrid vehicles since then.
Advances in solar cells and collector systems have been commonly used in large scale solar power plants.
The main components of the Michigan solar car were:
carbon fiber composite body and chassis
low friction wheels
system of solar collectors (concentrators).
For car enthusiasts, the specifications of the 2007 Continuum Solar Car are listed below:
weight (without driver) – 475 lbs (215 kg)
size – 16.4 ft x 5.9 ft (5 m x 1.8 m
maximum speed – 87 mph (140 km/h)
maximum torque – 37 lb-ft (50.2 Nm)
nominal power – 2.5 hp
maximum power – 12.3 hp
max. field power – 1900 watts
type of fuel – no
battery – 30 kg (lithium polymer)
fuel savings – endless
A few words about solar vehicle races.
The World Solar Challenge was founded by Hans Tholstrup in 1987. It is held in Australia and starts in the north of Australia in Darwin and ends in the south in Adelaide, a roughly 1800 mile race. Race results: 3 third place. The North American Solar Challenge race was established by GM in 1989. Its distance from start to finish is 2,500 miles. The race route starts in Dallas, Texas and ends in Calgary, Alberta. Race results: 5 National Championships.
The Michigan Solar Car Team organization consists of 4 units: Engineering, Business, Operations and Strategy. The UM Solar Car team’s $2,600,000 budgeted expenses included costs for: vehicle, strategy, business, operations and logistics.
Notable UM Solar Car sponsors include: GM, Ford, Dana, Denso, Shell, Roush, Alcoa, SKF Group, Detroit Auto Dealers Association, Molex, Tel-X Corporation, Vector Group, A123 systems, Delta, AT&T, Motorola, Bowne , Cytec, Michelin, 3M, Kaiser Aluminum, Visteon, ArvinMeritor and many more.
Media companies that have covered the solar car team are: ABC, Boston Globe, CBS, CNN, Discovery Channel, ESPN, New York Times, MSNBC, Popular Mechanics, USA Today.
The UM Solar Car team is always looking for sponsors and donations. As part of the nonprofit University of Michigan, the Solar Car Team is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are eligible for tax exemption, whether monetary or in-kind donations of materials and selected services.
UM Solar Car donors and sponsorship levels are listed below:
1. Platinum ($100,000 or more, at least $25,000 in cash)
2. Gold ($25,000 to $99,999, at least $5,000 in cash)
3. Silver ($10,000 to $24,999)
4. Bronze ($2,500 to $9,999)
5. Crew (up to $2,500)
The UM Solar Car team is a legacy of excellence. List of past Michigan Solar Cars names, model year and awards won:
Sunrunner 1990, 1st place GM Sunrayce, 3rd place World Solar Challenge,
Maize & Blue 1993, 1st GM Sunrayce,
Solar Vision 1995,
Maize Blaze 1999,
M-Pulse 2001, 1st place American Solar Challenge, 3rd place World Solar Challenge,
Momentum 2005, 1st place American Solar Challenge, 3rd place World Solar Challenge,
Continuum 2007, 1st Place American Solar Challenge,
The UM Solar Car team is a perfect example of green technology put into practice. The solar car is a shining proof of the support of alternative energy sources and the development of advanced technologies. It allows the solar team to expand our public reach.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit revealed the potential and capabilities of solar, electric and hybrid vehicles to a diverse audience. The future looks bright! For more information, visit: http://www.umsolar.com.
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