Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Michigan Solar Car Team finishes third again in Australian race

For the fourth time in U-M Solar Car Team history, the students placed third in a biennial 1,880-mile race across Australia.

Read about Infinium’s adventures on the Solar Car Team blog.

Infinium crossed the finish line in Adelaide Wednesday evening (EDT), after competing for five days in the Global Green Challenge, formerly known as the World Solar Challenge. A final finish time was not available Wednesday night.

Tokai University of Japan won the race. Michigan fought hard with four-time champion team Nuon of the Netherlands for second place. On day four, the teams leap-frogged six times. But Infinium received a 10-minute penalty when the students had to push it up a tough hill toward the end of the race. That solidified Nuon’s lead.

Though the students who raced Infinium hoped to be the best in the world, or at least the best in U-M history, they’re happy sharing statistics with impressive cars from the past. Michigan finished third in the World Solar Challenge in 1990, 2001 and 2005. U-M is the reigning North American Solar Challenge champion. The team has won that race five times.

“We still ran a great race,” says interim project manager Steve Durbin, a senior aerospace engineering major “We have a reliable car. We didn’t meet our overall goal of finishing first, but we proved we are one of the top teams in the world by placing so well in the competition. … Staying neck-and-neck with Nuon is such a great accomplishment.”

Durbin credits the team’s dedication and technology for the solid performance. Through the summer, a core of 20 team members worked 80-hour weeks to get the car ready to race. And a state-of-the-art lithium battery donated by A123 Systems helped Infinium achieve a high average speed approaching 60 mph.

The car also utilizes space-grade solar cells comparable to those NASA uses in satellites, and an in-wheel electric motor designed for solar cars that peak at 98 percent efficiency. It was billed as the most competitive car in the team’s history, able to go for more than 300 miles without the sun.

With more than 100 members, Solar Car is one of the largest student organizations on campus, including students from the College of Engineering, LSA, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, the School of Art & Design, and the School of Education.

This year, major sponsors include Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Delta Air Lines, and the U-M College of Engineering.