Solar Cars: Getting the Show on the Road in Omaha

Let’s get this show on the road - the 2018 #American Solar Challenge has begun with #solar cars made by pioneering college students. Meet the modern #Oregon Trail.

American Solar Car Challenge makes it's first stop at Stuhr Museum (NTV News)

Imagine watching a completely ground-breaking car making its way through traffic cones. Visualize watching this solar car park perfectly – it’s not something out of a movie. The sound from the crowd watching the drivers of these show off their skills was reminiscent of a parent applauding their teenager for finally mastering parallel parking just in time for their road test.

What is all the fuss about?

Well, it’s the 2018 , and even a task such as parallel parking is a big deal. It’s not because it is difficult to park a , per se, although it certainly might take more effort than a standard car – it’s because of what the action signifies for the future of solar.

Just the other day, on July 14, 14 solar vehicles left Lewis and Clark Landing on the Missouri River. These solar-powered vehicles have started their 10 day race, which follows the route of the world-famous . The vehicles will travel more than 1,700 miles to complete the race. This is greater than the distance from Florida to Maine, so it is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to a solar-powered car.

College Students Prove Hard-Work & Creativity Pay Off

Roughly 100 individuals watched from the riverfront as the solar cars started their trek from to Bend, OR. The innovative vehicles were created by teams of college students from America and abroad as they set out to demonstrate how their engineering skills could be used along with solar technology to make a difference in the world.

It is not easy to get a spot in this race – as a matter of fact, according to the event director, Gail Lueck, it can take roughly two years to plan everything. Only the best of the best will be able to earn a spot.

Solar Car Qualifications

Solar cars have to qualify for the American Solar Challenge through a track-based succeeding event which spans a three-day period. The solar vehicle must be able to finish 96 laps in a day, or 143 laps in two days. 24 laps have to be completed for the drivers to qualify for the American Solar Challenge. Clearly, it takes work.

The race itself is certainly demanding, too. If you have ever done a cross-country road trip, you know that even driving in a standard, everyday vehicle can be grueling after so many hours.

Don’t worry, there are pit stops along the way.

Yes, there are checkpoints throughout the race. The first one is in Grand Island, which is approximately the 45-minute mark. Here, teams are able to charge their car’s batteries and figure out any mechanical problems.

University of Michigan’s team was the first to get to Grand Island. Right behind them was the team from Western Sydney University of Australia.

How are the teams safely making this trek? This has been carefully planned out – there is a solar car, a lead car, and a “chase” car which follows behind the solar vehicles in an effort to keep them protected from traffic. This is especially important for some of the smaller vehicles, which are merely being judged on speed.

Some of the solar vehicles are so small, as a matter of fact, that many wouldn’t be able to fit behind the wheel. Elizabeth Li, for instance, is a junior from the University of California. She was chosen to drive her team’s solar vehicle because she is 5-foot-3 and can fit behind the wheel.

They aren’t all tiny. Some of the solar vehicles are larger in size. University of Minnesota’s team created a solar car that would be able to get to Oregon while transporting as many passengers as possible. A senior at University of Minnesota, Ben Gallup, stated the desire to create something people would actually want to purchase.

And success just might be found in this notion. Could solar cars eventually be a popular concept? Would they be affordable? How much money could drivers save, and what would the impact look like for the planet? These are all questions we need to be asking. Solar technology is becoming more and more popular – just read up on the latest solar news to see what a difference renewable sources are making!



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