I took some time to drive up to Grant's Farm in south county St. Louis yesterday to see some of the 13 college teams that have entered solar powered cars in this year's American Solar Challenge. I only stayed long enough to see three of the teams come in for their mid-day "pit stops".
The cars are very small, light, and covered with solar cells, of course. Some are carbon fiber monocoques, others have aluminum or alloy steel space frames with carbon fiber body panels.
Top speed on some of the cars is nearly 100 mph, but they are limited to 65 mph by the rules and must obey all traffic signs and speed limits. The cars all have Lithium Ion batteries to store up power for times when the sun isn't shining. All charging is done by the sun, no plug-ins allowed! Batteries are confiscated at the end of each day's run, then returned to the teams the next morning. The University of Michigan is the best funded and organized team, and has a sizable lead.
I posted all of the pictures I took on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010190884057
For those who don't have Facebook accounts, here are a few selected pics:
Mark, Thanks for posting this. I find all wheeled vehicles interesting to some extent. I hope to get together with you for a cup of coffee the next time I'm in St. Louis to see my grandkids.
In my opinion, the University of Minnesota by far has the best looking profile and is a real departure from the typical design seen in this type of competition.
The wheels are covered by fender skirts (for lack of a better term) when the car is in use.
I agree, Erik, I wish I could have stayed long enough to see the Minnesota team arrive.
I spoke to some of the officials and they are talking about rule changes to push the teams towards two seater configurations.
Just one more step towards all cars becoming electric and becoming fossil fuel free. I can't even imagine the work and planning that goes into creating such a car. I think there was a movie a bunch of years back about collage solar powered cars. Great photos Mark.
I'm biased because I'm from Minnesota.
A while ago I saw a documentary on public television about either a similar solar race or an extreme high gas mileage vehicle race where the vehicles have similar configurations - basically a flat wing design with a bubble cockpit. It included one high school team in addition to the college teams.
One of the major problems seemed to be complaints by drivers regarding cramped interior space (even though the drivers are usually the smallest/lightest members of the team for obvious reasons) which also contributed to very hot conditions inside the car. The lack of comfort can also contribute to operator error.
Looks like the U of MN has provided a lot of space for the driver which helps alleviate the problems above.
Here is a link to the American Solar Challenge website for those that would like to learn more:
Looks like an aircraft carrier for drones
I wonder how long it will take some one to equal rare earth magnets for brake charging when China has all the rare earth as I understand. Is brake charging allowed?
There was a rare earth mine in the U.S., but it went bankrupt last year. It could be re-opened if the business case becomes favorable (i.e., the price of imported rare earths becomes prohibitive):
By the way, rare earths aren't rare, they got that name because they are difficult (expensive) to separate from their ore and each other:
China's attempt to monopolize rare earth mining and production has backfired. The free market has responded with several initiatives to deal with it and the Chinese have had to close some mines.
As far as these cars are concerned, you can be sure they are using regenerative braking. Since they are driven solely by electric motors it is a simple matter to use those for regenerative braking.
Thanks Mark and Gary----------learned some thing!
The power of those magnets is incredible.
I would have thought all of the intersections between the solar array and the canopy, cockpit tub and wheel spats would add up to considerable interference drag but I guess keeping the wetted area as low as possible must more than make up for it.