Interesting question, Chuck. I don't know offhand, but it seems from what I heard from the designers that making the vehicles as light as possible is a big design goal. So the lightest vehicles would probably be among some of the best finishers.
Nice article! I recently saw a television program where a man pedaled a special bicycle 75 MPH without drafting assistance! Around the same time there was an article about a solar power aircraft that stayed aloft for several day/night cycles. The technology is available to reduce rolling resistance to extremely low levels and CFD programs to help design a slippery design that could be propeled at fairly significant speeds using relativewly low power. I wonder if the predicted speed will be sustained through the darkness hours or if the speed will be reduced. Look forward to reading the results.
Interesting that you got to see some of this technology up close, Lou. I think you're right that they would be a bit cost-prohibitive to make completely road-safe, and they are far away from being commercial vehicles. But I think one day solar cars could take to the road legally and commercially in regions that have an abundance of sunlight.
Given the inefficiency of solar power - I find these challenges very interesting. It seems to me we hear a lot about these competitions but solar power can't seem to get a majority break through in the consumer market. Maybe the redesign mentioned in the article will help. At this point I don't really envision solar energy as practical for transportation because of all of the variables involved, but rather harnessing it for other applications and moving that into the mainstream - such as home energy and portable energy options in rural areas. Maybe these challenges will change that perception.
Elizabeth, a few years ago a solar challenge race ended in our town (Naperville, IL). It was really interesting to see the cars and talk to the teams that had just gone about 2,000 miles to get to the destination.
While some of the cars may be trying to be more "conventional", I have to wonder what the cost, in weight, would be of safety equipment required of cars today. Some sort of solar, plug in hybrid might be really interesting, though.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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