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Solar Car Team Wins Again; Breaks National Record
September 12, 2012
The University of Michigan Solar Car Team recently won the 2012 American Solar Challenge for a fourth consecutive American title.
The team also broke the national record with Quantum, its lightest and most aerodynamic vehicle to date. Quantum logged a final time of 44 hours, 36 minutes, and 21 seconds during the eight-day competition, which covered 1,650 miles from Rochester, N.Y., to St. Paul, Minn.
This is the seventh North American title for the U-M team, which won the inaugural, biennial event in 1990 with its first car, the Sunrunner. The 2012 victory also marked a record-breaking run, as the team finished with a 10-hour, 18-minute lead on its nearest competitor. The most recent record also was held by a U-M team with the 2008 car, Continuum.
"It is exciting and a relief," said crew chief and recent electrical engineering grad Ryan Mazur of the win. Taking second and third in the competition of 18 schools were Iowa State University and Principia College, respectively.
Let it Rain
Technology and training were on the U-M team's side, despite some averse weather conditions and rain. The car is powered by batteries, which are charged by solar cells. And though the team is tight-lipped about specific technology, Quantum traveled almost six hours with no sunlight.
"We've tested the car extensively in the rain, and each of our drivers practiced in the rain, so that really gave us an advantage," said mechanical engineering student and 2012 lead strategist A.J. Trublowksi.
The team finished with a 10-hour, 18-minute lead to break the record.
The 2012 course also presented new challenges. The path cut through more cities and towns than usual, allowing for more encounters with fans, but also increasing complexity for the racers. "This was a very interesting and difficult route," said Mazur. "We often had to deal with heavy traffic and dangerous drivers."
The Push to Win
The U-M Solar Car Team has finished third in the World Solar Challenge five times, most recently with Quantum in 2011. The team is one of the largest interdisciplinary organizations on the Michigan campus, with more than 100 students representing various schools and colleges, from engineering to business.
"The atmosphere on the team is unlike anything I have ever experienced before," said race manager Jordan Feight, an atmospheric and oceanic space sciences student. "The dedication and commitment to push beyond what was previously possible is simply amazing."
Major sponsors of the U-M Solar Car team include IMRA America, Inc., Michigan Engineering, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Corp.
is a writer and web content specialist on the communications and marketing staff in the College of Engineering.