Cloudy skies and rain showers on the final two days couldn’t stop the University of Michigan’s solar car team from winning the 2016 American Solar Challenge race last Saturday for the sixth consecutive time.
With the lack of sun to keep the solar panels charged, all 24 teams crept towards the finish line, and the U of M’s team was the only solar car to finish the race under its own battery power.
All of the other entrants were loaded onto trailers and were pulled across the finish line.
“We were worried about physically getting to the finish,” said team leader Shihaab Punia.
“Out of all the teams, we were the only ones that went [the] entire race on solar power alone.”
The lack of sun wasn’t the only challenge the young students faced.
The team had a pre-race six-minute penalty on each of the eight day, 1,975-mile race.
That’s because the car, Atrium, (the Latin word for gold) was designed to compete in last fall’s Australian World Solar challenge and didn’t quite meet the American race regulations.
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Atrium is the 13th solar electric vehicle in the team’s 26-year history and has a sleeker aerodynamic body designed to allow the driver to be in a much more horizontal position than previous vehicles.
Power losses from the electrical system have been minimized and mechanical systems optimized for weight reduction and an increase in overall power.
The American Solar Challenge originated in 1990 with Sunrayce USA, named after General Motors’s Sunracer solar winning car, and is held every other year during the US summer.
Each race takes a different route. This year’s event began on July 30 in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, and seven states later, concluded at Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota.
This is the ninth time that the University of Michigan has won the solar race according to a Detroit Free Press report.