This year's winner of the American Solar Challenge was the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the biennial race of solar-powered cars, which starts in Chicago, IL and ends in Claremont, CA during the summer.
"We used lithium ion batteries in place of lead-acid batteries this year," explains Brian Gilchrist, Ph.D. and professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He is one of the team members for the M-Pulse, the car that won the American competition this year.
Gilchrist says the competition is a catalyst for innovation and is beneficial to the auto industry. "Automotive manufacturers are looking at the photovoltaic system, some of which may eventually be applied in hybrid vehicles," says Gilchrist.
A hydraulic braking system helps conserve the car's energy. "We use regenerative brakes that dump kinetic energy back into the battery instead of just losing it as heat," explains Gilchrist.
For more information, go to www.engin.umich.edu/solarcar.