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Solar car wins race in record time

25 Jul 2003

The solar-powered car developed by the University of Missouri - Rolla wins the American Solar Challenge in record time.

The University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) has won the American Solar Challenge in a record time. The university’s car, Solar Miner IV, blazed its way across the finishing line on Wednesday in a cumulative time of 51 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds, beating the 2001 record by more than four hours.

“We’re a little surprised by our time during this year’s race,” said Rolla team member Kerry Poppa. “We had a good car, a fast car, but we didn’t expect this. We’re all thrilled.”

The American Solar Challenge is a 2300-mile solar-car race that follows Route 66 across the US from Chicago to the outskirts of Los Angeles. This year, twenty solar-powered cars built by student teams from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US entered the gruelling race.

Solar Miner IV is powered by 2800 gallium arsenide solar cells, each with an efficiency of 20%, and 459 lithium polymer batteries.

Averaging a speed of 43.3 miles per hour, the UMR team beat its nearest rival, the University of Minnesota, by just under five hours. Minnesota came second with an unofficial time of 56:36:31 and early leader University of Waterloo was third with an unofficial time of 58:11:20.

Having claimed the runner-up spot in the 2001 race, the UMR team was determined to go one better this year. Solar Miner IV moved into the lead with the lowest cumulative time after day four of the race and continued to set the pace after that.

•  If you want to catch a glimpse of the winning car and talk to the winning drivers, the UMR team is planning a homecoming celebration on July 28 from 11.30a.m. to 2p.m. The team says the Solar Miner will cruise along Pine Street in downtown Rolla and stop at the pavilion on the corner of Eighth and Oak.

Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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