The University of Michigan won the solar-powered vehicle. The team bested eight teams in the eight-day, 1,700 mile race from Austin to Minneapolis in their three-wheeled Quantum vehicle—it was the university’s fifth consecutive win in the biennial race.
According to race organizers, 20 teams with vehicles covered with and powered purely by solar panels entered into the first part of the challenge, the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP). While FSGP is an annual event, the longer American Solar Challenge is held every other year. The collegiate event included a number of international and first-year competitors.
“This is a higher number of participants than in recent years, which is promising for the future of solar car racing in America,” organizers said. The American Solar Challenge is another opportunity to explore the potential of solar-powered vehicles. The world’s biggest solar car race is Australia’s biennial World Solar Challenge.
Though 20 teams were in the FSGP only 10 qualified for the for the American Solar Challenge, but two were unable to start, whittling the number to eight. “The track event proved particularly challenging this year due to heavy cloud cover, the steep hill up to turn one, and a battery fire that delayed the final day of racing,” according to American Solar Challenge.
The University of Michigan raced on its Quantum vehicle, the same one that won the American Solar Challenge in 2012. However, despite the car’s pedigree, they quickly ran into serious problems. Within 10 minutes of starting on the first day the car lost power. "It definitely was demoralizing," said Crew Chief and Computer Engineering major Ian Larson said.
"It was right after the start and we were already on the side of the road, and there were race officials all around so that added another level of stress. And you know that every minute is lost."
They replaced the motor within about 30 minutes and went on to recapture the lead on the first day and held on to the lead until the end. To come back they pushed the vehicle to its speed limits.
"This isn't just a win," said Pavan Naik, project manager and junior industrial and operations engineer. "It's a win after one failure after another.”
While the University of Michigan won the race in 41 hours and 27 minutes, the University of Minnesota placed second in 45 hours and 19 minutes and Iowa State University placed third in 50 hours and 18 minutes. The University of Michigan’s Quantum vehicle was the only one of the top finishers with a three-wheel configuration as opposed to a four-wheel vehicle.Tweet