U. of Mich. Entry Takes First Place in Solar Car Race With AM-Solar Car Race-List
DETROIT (AP) _ The Sunrunner, a student-built solar car that runs on ″the power of a hair dryer,″ hummed across the finish line Thursday to win a Florida-to-Detroit race by 32 sun-powered vehicles.
Western Washington University’s Viking XX was first to finish, but the University of Michigan’s Sunrunner had the best elapsed time in the 11-day, 1,641-mile competition: 72 hours, 50 minutes and 47 seconds. Its average speed was 22.5 mph.
″This is about as good as engineering can get,″ said Michigan team member Bill Kaliardos. ″It’s an exciting way to display solar energy and its applications.″
The Sunrunner triumphed despite its first mechanical delay, a 10-minute stop Thursday to repair a drive chain.
Western Washington’s entry was second in the early, unofficial standings, and the University of Maryland’s Pride of Maryland came in third.
The vehicles completed the final, 84-mile leg of the race under strong sun and with temperatures in the 80s. The flat, lightweight vehicles finished with faint whines and hums rather than the booming exhausts and smoking tires of their internal-combustion cousins.
The Sunrunner - just over 3 feet high but 19 feet long and 6.6 feet wide - and other cars were designed to expose the maximum area of solar cells to the sun and run on minimum power, in the Sunrunner’s case 1.5 horsepower.
″We’re trying to run the car on the power of a hair dryer,″ said Susan Fancy, a 27-year-old mechanical engineering student who was the Sunrunner’s project manager.
The GM Sunrayce USA, which began July 9 at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., was sponsored by General Motors Corp., the U.S. Department of Energy and the Society of Automotive Engineers.
GM plans to send the top three finishers to Australia’s World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile race across the Australian outback from Darwin to Adelaide. It starts Nov. 11.
″We’re going to take our car back and start preparing it to go to Australia,″ said Bill Lingenfelter, 23, a Western Washington University industrial technology student and the Viking XX team captain.
Lingenfelter said some 35 people worked for about 18 months on the Viking XX.
″One thing that I really like: it’s all student-designed and student- built,′ ′ said Lingenfelter of the car, which was featured on the cover of Popular Science last August.
One of only three two-passenger vehicles in the race, the pontoon-like vehicle had two fishbowl-shaped cockpits facing each other. ″It’s very radical,″ Lingenfelter said.
GM held a parade of the finishers and another banquet for the racers, who were treated to a lobster dinner in Mason on the eve of the final race day.
The Star II from small Crowder College in Missouri showed that small could be beautiful, finishing first in Wednesday’s 190-mile leg from Greenville, Ohio, to Mason.
Crowder finished fifth overall, edging out such engineering powerhouses as MIT, in sixth place, and Stanford, in seventh. In fourth place was the Solar Eagle of California State University-Los Angeles.