solar vehicle

Nuon and Michigan at check point, World Solar Challenge 2009, Australia

Everyone loves a race. Throughout history, engineering advances have been made for competitions. Often what starts as a sport or an offer of a prize turns out to be useful for many other applications. Solar vehicle technology has been tested and improved through racing.

  • World Solar Challenge – a biennial solar-powered car race which covers 3,021 km (1,877 mi) through the Australian Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The inaugural event took place in 1987.
  • Solar Car Challenge established in 1993 to help motivate students in science and engineering, and to increase alternative energy awareness. The Challenge teaches high school students around the world how to build roadworthy solar cars. Teams display their solar cars at the Texas Motor Speedway or drive cross-country. For the 2013 Solar Car Challenge teams traveled from Texas to Southern California.
All cars – 2009 Solar Car Challenge, TX

Solar-powered aircraft

  • Solar Impulse – The gigantic dimensions of this ultra-lightweight revolutionary airplane – capable of flying day and night without fuel – are its trademark feature. To build it, the whole team had to push back the frontiers of knowledge in materials science, energy management and the man-machine interface. Every one of its take-offs, propelled silently by its four electric motors, inspires us to consider using clean, new technologies to free our society, little by little, from dependence on fossil energy.

    Journey across America 2013

  • Solar Impulse landing at Cincinnati Lunken (KLUK) this past Friday around 8pm after a flight from St. Louis, Mo. video 3:18

Engineering ideas

  • photovoltaic cells, battery, air resistance,

Show and Tell
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Solar Car Racing – A solar car is a vehicle which is fueled by the sun’s energy. Photovoltaic cells in solar panels on the surface of the car convert the sun’s energy into electricity. This electricity is then used to run the battery that powers the car’s motor or to power the motor directly. Most solar cars are developed for the purposes of racing, due to the present challenges and limitations of using solar energy as a reliable source of vehicular power. In this challenge you will virtually design and race a solar car. Select components of your solar car such as the body, battery and tires to optimize performance. Race your car in a desert and a racetrack environment and see how it performs. Modify your design based on feedback and performance and race again!