Nineteen University of Missouri-Rolla students will again get their kicks — and plenty of sunshine — along old U.S. Route 66 this summer when they again compete in the American Solar Challenge, a grueling 2,300-mile race along the historic "mother road" from Chicago to southern California.
"Solar Miner IV," the solar-powered car designed and built by the UMR students, qualified to compete in the American Solar Challenge on Wednesday, May 14, during a related race, the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Topeka, Kan. The grand prix event is a "tune-up" for college and university solar car teams planning to compete in the biennial American Solar Challenge.
Some 35 teams from colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain plan to compete in this summer’s event, which begins July 13 at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and ends July 23 in Claremont, Calif.
In the first American Solar Challenge, held in 2001, the UMR Solar Car Team finished in second place behind the University of Michigan. In 1999, the UMR team won another national solar car race, Sunrayce 99, a 1,300-mile trip from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Fla.
Built for speed
Solar Miner IV is the sixth solar-powered vehicle to be built by UMR students since 1993. According to Sundara Srinivasan, the UMR Solar Car Team president, Solar Miner IV improves upon the team’s previous vehicles in a variety of ways.
The new vehicle uses a lithium polymer battery pack, which provides more power than the lithium ion batteries used in Solar Miner III, the runner-up in the 2001 race.
UMR’s 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.