Individuals across the globe are focused on making a positive difference and leaving a mark on the world. In North Carolina, some have taken strides to focus their #energy on making a difference in how people travel. For over a year, students at #North Carolina State (referred to as the “#SolarPack”) have been working on a #solar electric car. Senior Cody Biederman stated that this is an impactful way to inspire change.
Biederman commented on how his team is different from other solar teams, and that the goal is to create a full-sized vehicle which has the appearance of a full car with one key difference: there will be more than 200 solar panels used to provide energy. Where will the solar panels come from? Fascinatingly, the students are making them! They intend to have the solar vehicle ready to drive later this month, when it will compete in the #Formula Sun Grand Prix, a qualifying series for the #American Solar Challenge which will take place in Hastings, Nebraska this year.
The North Carolina State students who make up the SolarPack plan to go on tour with the car so they can thank their sponsors and show off the vehicle.
Humble Beginnings: An Entry into American Solar Challenge
How did the idea of a solar electric car enter the minds of these pioneering individuals? It started when a group of students decided to enter the American Solar Challenge, which is a two-yearly race for cars powered by renewable energy. They knew the competition would be fierce when it came to other university and college students. But according to Clean Technica, the cars typically entered are just glorified go karts, in so many words, with a few solar panels held down by cable ties. The #solar car challenge at North Carolina State University was started by Byron Sells, a mechanical engineering student who wanted to create something consumers would actually be interested in purchasing.
Sells has long had an interest in both alternative power sources such as solar, as well as automobiles. He previously interned at an Australian company focused on solar vehicles and relevant technology, and decided to use the skills gained during the course of the internship to make a big impact. This is how SolarPack was born. The solar electric car is projected to compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix, where it will be tested for acceleration, breaking and handling. What will happen if his team qualifies? They will have plenty of opportunities ahead.
SolarPack had to come up with a unique design because the amount of sunlight which typically falls on a car is not enough to power it. SolarPack needed to not only have space to place solar panels, but they also needed an aerodynamic shape and room for batteries. The car had to utilize as little energy as possible. The students needed to really demonstrate innovation and creativity as they did not have a pre-existing platform to build on. SolarPack managed to get more than 40 graduate and undergraduate students involved. Some of them are from the industrial design center, some from the college of engineering, and some from the Poole College of Management.
The solar electric car is going to be approximately 5 feet tall and 16 feet long, which makes it comparable to the size of a Toyota Corolla. Five passengers will be able to fit inside. From the windshield header to the car’s rear, the roof will be covered in solar panels. The rear window will be removed so there is more room for solar panels. At this point in time, the groundbreaking car is without heat, air conditioning or stereo. Of course, these are features which could be added down the road.
How Will The Unique Car Be Powered?
The solar car’s power will come from 500 lithium titanate oxide cells. They will have the proper balance between power and energy efficiency. The batteries should have a range of approximately 250 miles. The state-of-the-art car is expected to be able to reach a top speed of just under 100 miles per hour. Not too shabby!
The Goal Isn’t To Win – It’s To Learn How to Incorporate Solar in a Practical Way
The goal is not for SolarPack to win the competition, but to learn how to better incorporate solar in the future to make a vehicle practical. The students expect to learn how to manage solar better. The team wants to make estimable efforts toward the creation of a consumer-acceptable #solar electric vehicle, and their goal might not be too far-fetched. Thanks to this inventive group, American Solar Challenge should be seeing the most powerful motor it has seen yet.
SolarPack is a group of innovative individuals doing wonderful work. Anyone interested can support SolarPack’s impressive efforts by contacting them directly. Should their unique vehicle win the American Solar Challenge, there will be a great deal of opportunity moving forward – next up could be the World Solar Challenge, which will take place in Australia!
Follow solar news to learn how students are using their knowledge and innovativeness to make a difference in the world.