Top-ranked University of Michigan Solar Car Team hopes for bright result in U.S. race

Team prepares for 9-day American Solar Challenge

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Courtesy: University of Michigan News

ANN ARBOR - Next week, University of Michigan will compete against 20 collegiate solar car teams during the 2018 American Solar Challenge.

The nine-day, 1,700-mile race kicks off on Sunday and runs from Nebraska to Oregon.

Last year, U-M's Solar Car Team took second place in the World Solar Challenge in Australia, setting a new school record.

The reigning national champions will be racing Novum -- the smallest and most aerodynamic, bullet-shaped vehicle the school has ever built. With only one hull, as opposed to a catamaran design, it is the only car of its kind that will be competing in next week's race.

(Courtesy: University of Michigan News)

One radical difference between the American Solar Challenge and the World Solar Challenge is the terrain of the course.

While Novum prevailed in the flat Australian desert, the Rocky Mountains will present the team with new obstacles, including winding roads.

"This year's race has a total elevation change of about 1,000 meters, which is a new thing for Novum that significantly alters the way we strategize our race," mechanical engineering junior and the team's engineering director and crew chief, Chae Woo Lim, said in a press release. "This was always on our minds as we prepared, and something that stuck out to me when we first learned of the route. But it's a challenge we can handle."

The team has been adjusting Novum's design to address potential issues and meet race regulations. This has required further testing, including a test run on the route.

(Courtesy: University of Michigan News) 

"With only one member who has race and manufacturing experience, we feel a real sense of accomplishment with how effective we are on the road now," project manager Noah Bearman, a computer science senior, said.

"There's no better feeling than seeing Novum pull away and roll all day without a problem. Ask anyone on the team and they will tell you the same -- it didn't come free. We have worked tirelessly to get here and won't stop until we bring that trophy home again for Michigan," he said.

This year's team is especially young and is comprised of students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. The team has been active for 28 years and has won the American Solar Challenge nine times and enjoyed six podium finishes in the World Solar Challenge.
The race begins at 8 a.m. Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska, and ends July 22 in Bend, Oregon. 

Let's Go Blue!

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