The world of college solar powered cars is getting busy these days. The University of Michigan, a top flight competitor in this space, just recently introduced its latest racer for the upcoming World Solar Challenge. While the Wolverines were doing this, Oregon State University (OSU) was out in Austin, Texas under a bright sun and 105 degree heat winning the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix – go Beavers!
OSU’s entry, dubbed The Phoenix, won last week at this event by posting 193 laps, or 661 miles, around the Circuit of the Americas raceway on nothing but solar energy. Eleven teams from across North America competed in what’s said to be the “closest Formula Sun Grand Prix race in its 13-year history, a three-day race that featured 24 hours of racing time.” Runners up included Illinois State University, with 192 laps, and Iowa State University, with 191 laps.
One thing which keeps this race friendly is the “cooperative” racing format, in which
teams help others to address problems in the interest of helping every participant do as well as possible. The Phoenix had several motor problems this year, but Missouri University of Science and Technology generously lent their spare motor…More motor problems developed later in the race, but Northwestern University offered use of the motor from its car that was unable to race for other reasons. In that cooperative spirit, OSU helped many other teams to create, install and test new solar modules, repair brake systems, identify battery protection concerns and other issues.
The OSU racing team, consisting of both undergraduate and graduate students, plans to compete again next summer in the 2014 American Solar Challenge, which will include both track race and road race competition. This is the race University of Michigan typically dominates, so expect a friendly scrap up between two very solar powered, animal mascot loving vehicles and their drivers.