Borealis shines in 2001 American Solar Challenge
Overcoming electrical problems early in the race, the University's
solar vehicle team and its fifth-generation car, Borealis, surged
to a sixth-place finish in the 2001 American Solar Challenge. Twenty-seven
college teams competed in the 2,300-mile, 10-day race from Chicago
to Claremont, California, along historic U.S. Route 66.
Completely redesigned from the ground up, Borealis incorporated
new technology designed to help it surpass the benchmarks set by
its predecessor, Aurora 4, including a new aerodynamic shape, more
efficient solar cells and batteries, and an upgraded electrical
"Nearly every system in this car is completely new," says team
captain Lisa Mauer. "Unfortunately, we ran into some unpredictable
glitches once we got out of Chicago."
Rough road conditions on the first day of the race caused a short
in Borealis' electrical system, destroying 16 power trackers that
maximize the power entering the batteries from the solar array.
With the array disabled, the team was forced to race on battery
power and ended the second day in a disappointing 19th place. But
team members remained in good spirits, says Mauer, and they quickly
devised a plan to keep Borealis in the race, using an emergency
shipment of power trackers removed from previous models. They spent
rest periods during the next three days rewiring 3,400 cells in
the solar array.
Once the repairs were finished, Borealis completed the remaining
legs of the race in record times.
"The car performed phenomenally," says Mauer. "We raced at the
speed limit for the last several days of the race. We finished in
the top three most days and would have ended up at the top of the
pack if not for the [electrical] problems."
Borealis finished the competition with an elapsed race time of
66 hours and 59 minutes. The University of Michigan's entry, M-Pulse,
finished in first place with an elapsed time of 56 hours and 10
"Overall, I'm really proud of our performance," says Mauer. "Our
electrical problems were frustrating, but the team really pulled
together to get us back in the race. It was a great learning experience
for all of us."
The team hopes to race Borealis in the World Solar Challenge in
Australia in October. Members will spend the next few months refining
the car and raising funds to make the trip.
Mauer is optimistic about the team's prospects in the international
race. "The American Solar Challenge was perfect preparation," she
says. "This car could do exceptionally well in Australia."
For further information, visit svp.umn.edu.