The University Record, April 16, 2001

U-M solar car team revs up for international competition

By Neal Lao
College of Engineering

Team captain and race manager Nader Shwayhat spoke at the ceremony.
On April 11, the U-M Solar Car Team unveiled its new design for a solar-powered vehicle. Designed for three competitions this year, the car represents a complex and technically ambitious student project. The unveiling ceremony took place outside the Lurie Engineering Center on North Campus.

Called M-Pulse, the car is part of a worldwide challenge to highlight alternative energy sources and build vehicles that run solely on solar energy. As the U-M’s sixth-generation vehicle, M-Pulse draws on work by students since the University’s first effort in 1989. That car, the Sunrunner, won the General Motors Corp.-sponsored Sunrayce Competition in 1990 and took third place overall in the 1990 World Solar Car Challenge in Australia.

This year’s vehicle represents two years of effort by a multidisciplinary team of students from the College of Engineering, the School of Business Administration, and the School of Art and Design. The project also receives support and technical assistance from more than 100 companies, including Ford Motor Co., Honeywell and Lockheed Martin.

Driven by the two-year competition cycle, the team has redesigned its 1999 car from scratch. M-Pulse should outperform U-M’s 1999 car with an estimated top speed of 80 mph and accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 12 seconds, creating zero emissions.

The solar car team posed by M-Pulse at the April 11 unveiling ceremony. Photos by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services
Throughout the year, the team designs, manufactures and tests this sophisticated vehicle, as well as manages all aspects of the team’s fund-raising, logistics and business functions.

Approximately 150 students work on the car’s development, averaging a combined 200 hours per week on the vehicle during the school year and 1,500 hours during vacation periods.

The team’s first race will be the closed-course Formula Sun Grand Prix competition in May in Topeka, Kan. The team then will compete in the American Solar Car Challenge in July, which is a 2,200-mile open-road race from Chicago to Los Angeles. Finally, in November, the team will take M-Pulse to the premier solar car event, the World Solar Challenge in Australia, which spans 1,800 miles from Darwin to Adelaide.