The 2016 American Solar Challenge title goes to the University of Michigan for the sixth time in a row. The team’s Aurum car completed the multi-day, 1,975 mile race on Aug. 6 in 48 hours, 26 minutes and 46 seconds more than 10 hours ahead of the nearest competitor Dunwoody University.
The race began July 30 in Brecksville, Ohio, and ended in Hot Springs, SD, eight days later. This year the biennial race included 23 teams of college students racing solar-powered cars across the Midwest.
Conditions were particularly challenging this year including two sunless days to end the race. “We always talk about some of the great races in the past," Punia said. "To be part of one that's been different—to have a completely sunless last two days of the race—to go through something unique, it's going to add the legacy of Michigan Solar car.”
"We were worried about physically getting to the finish," said Shihaab Punia, team leader and junior in computer engineering. "Out of all the teams, we were the only ones that went entire race on solar power alone." With the lack of sunlight the Aurum inched slowly past the finish line at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.
The University of Michigan originally designed Aurum to compete in the World Solar Challenge in South Australia so to meet requirements for the US race certain features needed to be modified and some couldn't. As a result, the car incurred a daily 6-minute time penalty, totaling a 48 minute setback over the course of the race.
In addition to sweeping the American Solar Challenge for the last decade, the university has secured five international third-place finishes in the World Solar Challenge. University involvement in races like these are important because they help students get real world experience working with solar panels and components.
While still not as big as the World Solar Challenge, the American Solar Challenge is growing. The number of teams competing this year has nearly tripled since the American Solar Challenge race in 2014.Tweet