ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – After starting off dead last due to an electrical malfunction, a University of Michigan solar-powered car placed fourth in a global competition, beating out 28 competitors.
“Placing fourth in the world is fantastic,” said Will Jones, race manager for the Michigan Solar Car Team and a senior in mechanical engineering. “This team worked so hard and it’s so validating to finish where we did.”
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge racecourse spanned 1800 miles across Australia, from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south.
The U-M car, nicknamed Astrum, failed to complete its trial lap during the preliminary run and was penalized by starting in last place, which put them about 40 minutes behind the leading team. Despite this setback, U-M’s team was able to fix the problem and complete the remaining preliminary tests before joining the official race.
“We effectively started with a penalty on top of the additional energy that we needed to overtake the cars that left Darwin ahead of us,” said Jones. “But our strategists spent the entire year preparing for the competition by studying passing situations with mathematical models. So we were well equipped to adjust our speeds accordingly.”
Astrum reached top speeds of over 60 miles per hour, becoming one of the fastest cars in the competition. It was powered entirely by sunlight despite facing several hours of cloudy weather.
The car was the 17th made by U-M’s Solar Car Team since the student organization was founded in 1989. The team won its first international championship in 2015 during the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge.