Buckeye Beat: Solar cars begin race in Ohio

STUDENTS FROM 20 UNIVERSITIES AROUND THE WORD DESIGNED AND BUILT - THE SILENT CARS. 

OVER THE SUMMER A FLEET OF SUN-FUELED CARS HIT THE ROAD IN OHIO FOR A RACE ACROSS THE MIDWEST. ONE THING YOU DIDN’T HEAR ALONG THE WAY — REVVING ENGINES. THESE CARS ARE PRETTY QUIET.

(nats)

STUDENTS FROM 20 UNIVERSITIES PUT THEIR HANDMADE SOLAR CARS TO THE TEST AT THE STARTLINE IN THE CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK ON JULY 30TH.

(Lauren Blacik, National Park ranger) “Today is the first day of the American Solar Challenge. A rally of solar powered cars is going to visit nine national parks across the Midwest over the course of the next eight days.”

THE STUDENTS SPENT ABOUT TWO YEARS RESEARCHING, DESIGNING AND BUILDING THE VEHICLES, SOME OF WHICH COST MORE THAN 100,000 DOLLARS.

THE TEAMS HAD TO MEET SPECIFIC DESIGN AND MECHANICAL. IN JULY THEY TESTED THEM ON A RACE TRACK TO PROVE THAT THEY WERE SAFE FOR THE ROAD. STILL A CARAVAN OF SAFETY VEHICLES AND TEAM MEMBERS DROVE WITH THEM ON THE PUBLIC ROADS.

WHILE EACH CAR HAS A UNIQUE DESIGN, THERE ARE SIMILARITIES IN THEIR BROAD ROOFS AND SMALL COCKPIT-LIKE DRIVERS SEATS. THE LARGE SURFACE AREA OF THE CARS LETS THEM COLLECT AS MUCH SUNLIGHT AS POSSIBLE.

ENERGY THAT ISN’T NEEDED IMMEDIATELY FOR POWERING THE ENGINE IS STORED IN THE VEHICLE’S BATTERY SO EVEN ON A DRISSLY DAY THE CARS STILL MOVE. ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FOR THE TWELVE TEAMS ON THE ROAD IS BALANCING SPEED AND ENERGY CONSUMPTION. DRIVERS MUST CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST TO BE SURE THEY AREN’T SPENDING STORED ENERGY THEY MIGHT NEED LATER.

(Matt Goode, Iowa State University student) “This car has a cruising speed of 75 miles per hour at a top speed. And at 45 miles per hour we can run on pure sunlight and that’s using the same about of energy as an electric hairdryer. So when people dry their hair off in the morning, we use that energy to go 45 miles an hour.

“But it’s a bit of a tight fit, so our drivers actually sit inside and to get in and outside of the car you have to jump in and out because the solar panels are relatively fragile.

“So we have one motor in the rear and that motor actually propels the car down the highway. It’s only 7 ½ horsepower. The car has three wheels, so a little bit different from some of the competitors and the less wheels you have the more efficient. Kind of like a bike. You don’t want to have 50 wheels on a bike.”

LIKE MATT SAID, THESE CARS FOCUS ON EFFICIENCY, NOT COMFORT. THAT MEANS NO RADIO, NO AIR CONDITIONING IN THE SUMMER AND NO HEAT IN THE WINTER. FOR STUDENT DRIVERS LIKE LINDSAY RUDISILL (RUDE-EH-SILL), THE NEARLY TWO THOUSAND MILE DRIVE CAN BE LESS THAN A JOYRIDE.

(Lindsay Rudisill, Appalachia State University student) “You kind of drive in it and it feels like a little spaceship, but it’s kind of rickety actually. There’s lots of noise. The motors right behind you so it’s hard to hear things outside of the car, so we’re always very aware and very attentive. 

“Your feet lay out, perpendicular, right in front of you. But other than that you have one air vent that just blows air from the outside on you, so if it’s a hundred degrees outside, I’m getting a hundred degrees blown at me as I’m driving and I’m sweating constantly. 

“We’re buckled in safe and we have a helmet and a push to talk walkie-talkie on the steering wheel so we always have communication.”

IF NOT COMFORTABLE, THE RIDE THROUGH THE NATIONAL PARKS, MUST HAVE BEEN SCENIC. THE TEAM FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN WAS THE FIRST TO REACH THE FINISHLINE AT WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK IN SOUTH DAKOTA IN JUST ABOUT 48 AND A HALF HOURS OF DRIVING.

Instructional Links

Website: American Solar Challenge

http://americansolarchallenge.org

Magazine Article: Explora, Scholastic Super Science, Hot Wheels, April 1, 2016

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mih&AN=113816391&site=src_ic-live&authtype=cookie,ip,custuid&custid=infohio

May Need Password

Website Article: DA Solar, Solar Powered Cars

https://www.dasolar.com/solar-energy/solar-powered-cars

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