University of Michigan Refines Solar Car Design

January 13, 2012

I have just read a cool article about the University of Michigan’s solar car. Back when I was a young and hopeful engineering student in Australia , the World Solar Challenge really sparked my imagination. This is the race from the top of Australia (Darwin) to the bottom (Adelaide) across the desert where the cars are powered by solar energy, which is basically captured by solar cells on the car roofs.

Winner of the World Solar Challenge

The winner of the inaugural race was GM with another established automaker, Ford, coming in second. But these days, it’s universities that are building the best designs and coming out on top. In 2011, Michigan University came in third.

A key part of their design refinement had to do with the batteries. According to the rules of the race, the capacity of the batteries is limited to 5 kWh, and it cannot be replaced during the race. It’s imperative that they are well designed.

The students at Michigan University had problems with overheating and, using modeling, identify areas of internal resistance and where there was too much current. I think you’ll find it an interesting read:


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