The purpose of this article is to address the technological innovation brought by the Michigan Solar Car team to the auto industry. This project was successfully tackled by a small group of one hundred Michigan’s brightest students and their 300 sponsors.
Recently, I went to the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. It was awesome! So much glamour and so many vehicles to choose from. But, in this article I am not going to talk about the automakers and their vehicles… I will be discussing about one vehicle that was pioneered twenty years ago and had a tremendous response in support from its sponsors and its students from University of Michigan. Yes, it’s about the UM school’s tenth generation of its solar car named “Infinium”. What a remarkable solar vehicle! Its team mission succeeded. The UM Solar Car team won several racing awards in two competitions, national and international.
One of the young team members, a sophomore student told me how proud he was about the entire team accomplishments, a wide array of leading edge technologies and many team innovations.
Solar car racing at Michigan celebrated its 20th year of existence. What an accomplishment!
The solar car team won most of the North American Championship, five out of nine times. At the World Championship contest finished 3rd, three times. That’s a great performance.
It all started twenty years ago when a group of Michigan passionate students won the GM Sunrayce. The Sunrunner 1990 solar car took the first place GM Sunrayce and 3rd place World Solar challenge.
The advances in battery technologies used in the solar vehicle had helped the breakthrough in the hybrids. Its carbon fiber composite body shared similar usage on Grand Prix race cars and commercial aircraft.
Regenerative braking systems had been used since 1989 and implemented in hybrid vehicles since.
Advances in solar cells and collector systems were commonly used in large solar power plants.
The main components of the Michigan solar car were:
carbon fiber composite body and chassis
custom build suspension
low friction wheels
solar collector (concentrator) system
For car enthusiasts the Continuum 2007 solar car specifications are listed below:
weight (w/o driver) – 475 lbs (215 kg)
size – 16.4 ft x 5.9 ft (5 m x 1.8 m
top speed – 87 mph (140 kmh)
max torque – 37 lb-ft (50.2 N-m)
nominal power output – 2.5 hp
max. power output – 12.3 hp
max. array output – 1900 watt
fuel type – sun
batteries – 30 kg (lithium polymer)
fuel economy – infinite
A few words about the solar vehicle races.
The World Solar Challenge was founded by Hans Tholstrup in 1987. It takes place in Australia and starts in the North of Australia at Darwin and ends up in the South in Adelaide, about 1800 miles race. Race results: 3 third place finishes. The North American Solar Challenge race was founded by GM in 1989. Its length from start to finish is 2500 miles. The race itinerary starts in Dallas, Texas and ends in Calgary, Alberta. Race results: 5 National Championships.
Michigan Solar Car Team organization is comprised of 4 units: engineering, business, operations and strategy. UM Solar Car team budget expenses of $2,600,000 included the cost of: vehicle, strategy, business, operational and logistics.
Among the most known UM Solar Car sponsors are: 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 covered the solar car team are: ABC, Boston Globe, CBS, CNN, Discovery Channel, ESPN, New York Times, MSNBC, Popular Mechanics, USA Today.
UM Solar Car team is continuously seeking sponsors and donations. As part of the non-profit University of Michigan, the Solar Car Team is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are eligible for tax exemptions, whether cash and in-kind donations of materials and select services.
UM Solar Car Donors and Sponsorship Levels are listed below:
1. Platinum ($100,000 or more, at least $25,000 cash)
2. Gold ($25,000 to $99,999, at least $5,000 cash)
3. Silver ($10,000 to $24,999)
4. Bronze ($2,500 to $9,999)
5. Crew (under $2,500)
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 place 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,
UM Solar Car team is a perfect example of green technology put to work. The solar car is a shining proof in promoting alternative energy sources and developing advanced technologies. It enables the solar team to expand our public outreach.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit unveiled the potential and capabilities of solar, electric and hybrid vehicles to a diverse audience. The future looks bright! For more info visit: http://www.umsolar.com.