NC State University team sets solar speed record with normal car
A recent article on Online Technician tells us about an interesting and successful solar car project at North Carolina State University, built by the SolarPack solar racing team. Not only did it set a record, it’s built on the body of a normal car (which most college teams wouldn’t even consider).
This shows us how far technology has advanced and improved, leading to more and more normal cars both in competition and soon in production.
In July, SolarPack participated in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (an event we talked about), where he set a new record with a time of three minutes and one second. The car completed 75 laps in total. But the vehicle’s speed isn’t the only thing that makes it unique among the varsity team’s solar cars.
“The heavier a car is, the more energy it needs to move,” said SolarPack team electrical manager Harrison Strag. “When you’re in a race based more on distance than speed, to go the longest distance you have to have the lightest car. That’s why you see the lightest cars win these solar races .
SolarPack’s car is a converted 2001 Volkswagen Golf GTI that weighs over 2,800 pounds and is by far the heaviest vehicle in the Formula Sun Grand Prix. This proved to be a major impediment to the vehicle’s performance at the event, which was dominated by hand-built cars designed to be as light and aerodynamically sleek as possible. But, most of the teams cars were also very impractical for any kind of daily use, a problem that SolarPack’s car did not share.
SolarPack designers bought the stock Volkswagen Golf body during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak for just $1,000. Ben Nichols, technical director of SolarPack and a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, said the team wanted to demonstrate that solar power could be practically applied to current vehicle models while saving money in these difficult times.
“The few sponsors we had could have [fund SolarPack] had to focus on their businesses and making sure they would survive the pandemic,” Nichols said. Online Technician. “The purchase of the Golf reduced the manufacturing costs of the body by approximately $30,000.”
COVID has put a bunch of other hurdles in the team’s way. They had no access to college property at all, so work had to start in a team member’s driveway, which wasn’t ideal. Additionally, they had to limit the number of people working on the car to five at a time, to comply with state COVID rules regarding gatherings. On top of that, the truck that was bringing their car to the competition in Kansas broke down, one of the team members’ flight was canceled, and all of this led to them competing with a battery. not tested.
The team later discovered that two of the battery cells had come loose, and the team stayed up all night so they could fix them. Strag commented that he thought it was SolarPack’s toughest obstacle during the competition.
Despite these challenges and a scary incident that you can read about Online Technician (seriously, look at their article), the team still managed to make a successful run and break an important record.
Featured Image: A screenshot from the SolarPack website, showing their vehicle.
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