It’s lighter, more aerodynamic and more energy efficient than the car that took second place in a national race two years ago, and members of the UMR Solar Car Team hope those qualities will make their newest solar-powered vehicle a national champion.
The team unveiled Solar Miner IV during special ceremonies Saturday, March 15, on the UMR campus. The vehicle is the sixth sun-powered car UMR students have made since 1993. Their last vehicle, Solar Miner III, took second place in the 2001 American Solar Challenge, a 2,300-mile race along historic Route 66 from Chicago to Claremont, Calif.
This year’s American Solar Challenge begins July 13 at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and ends July 23 in southern California. Solar Miner IV and the other sun-powered racers in the event will stop on the UMR campus on July 14 before proceeding westward.
According to Sundara Srinivasan, the UMR Solar Car Team president, Solar Miner IV improves upon Solar Miner III in a variety of ways. The new vehicle will use a lithium polymer battery pack, which provides more power than the lithium ion batteries used in Solar Miner III. The new car also has a lighter chassis — weighing in at about 18 pounds, as opposed to the 22-pound chassis of the previous vehicle. The new vehicle’s solar cells are also more efficient, and the design is more aerodynamic, Srinivasan says.
The Solar Miner IV is the sixth solar-powered vehicle to be built by UMR students since 1993. A predecessor, Solar Miner II, won Sunrayce ’99, a 10-day, 1,300-mile race from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Fla., in June 1999.