U of M solar car team challenges Iowa State to a duel

Friendly border battle will prepare both teams for this summer’s American Solar Challenge cross-country race

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (05/31/2018) — If you are driving south of the Twin Cities on Sunday, June 3, you may see a unique sight—two solar-powered cars driving down the highway.

Students from the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project and Iowa State Solar Car team are facing off in a friendly border battle to prepare for the cross-country American Solar Challenge in July. The mock challenge will begin in St. Paul about 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 3 at the Minnesota State Capitol and end later the same day at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

The two teams will show off their cars to the public at a pre-challenge showcase at the Science Museum of Minnesota from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. Members of the public can see the cars and talk to team members.

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project made history in August 2016 as the first team to race a Cruiser Class solar car in the American Solar Challenge (ASC)—they are the oldest Cruiser Class team in North America. (There were previously other two-seater teams, but they were not Cruiser Class). This year, the American Solar Challenge is adding a first-ever Cruiser Class where practicality and efficiency, not speed, is the goal. About eight teams are expected to compete in that class at ASC 2018.

The 1,600-mile American Solar Challenge is July 14-22 from Omaha, NE, to Bend, OR (loosely tracing the Oregon trail), but these pioneers will face different challenges. The teams are judged on how many people their car holds, weight of battery, and the distance their car can travel from the Sun’s energy. They are also judged on practicality, including car comfort and features that would be in a regular car.

For this year’s American Solar Challenge, the University of Minnesota team will be driving Eos II the car they used in last year’s 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia.

The University of Minnesota's Solar Vehicle Project was founded in 1990 and has since built 13 cars. The Solar Vehicle Project has competed in more than 30 racing events. Their cars have traveled to five nations across three continents—Australia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and of course, the United States of America.