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Engineers race for solar power

Engineers race for solar power

The U.S. Dept. of Energy sponsors a biennial race of solar powered cars called the American Solar Challenge. It's a race that's every bit as competitive as the Indy 500. Engineering students at various colleges compete against each other in a race that starts in Chicago, IL and ends in Claremont, CA. "We used lithium ion batteries in place of lead-acid batteries this year," explains Brian Gilchrist, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He is one of the team members for the university's M-Pulse, the car that won the American competition this year. Gilchrist says it is a catalyst for innovation and beneficial to the auto industry. "Automotive manufacturers are looking at the photovoltaic systems, some of which may eventually be applied in hybrid vehicles," he says. The M-Pulse has an all-composite structure for weight reduction. Gilchrist adds that the car's aerodynamic design also helped win the race. This year's victory was especially sweet for the University of Michigan because they beat the University of Missouri at Columbia, last year's race champions. Sponsors of the race include Ford, GMC, MDSI, National Instruments, Keithley Instruments, Loctite, Motorola, and John Deere. For more information, go to

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