Hundreds came out to witness the unveiling of the University of Michigan Solar Car team’s 14th solar-electric racing car NOVUM Friday night at the Michigan Theater.
Since 1989, the University’s premier solar car team has taken home nine national championships, five top-three finishes in the World Solar Challenge and a first-place finish internationally in 2015 at the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge.
In recent years, the team has faced an increasing amount of restrictions placed on solar vehicles competing in the international challenge, forcing the team to develop the most efficient and innovative model they have ever created.
Unlike the team’s last solar vehicle Aurum, this year’s model is reportedly 43 percent thinner and utilizes multijunction solar cells with 35 percent efficiency — resulting in an overall 20 percent efficiency.
Before the unveiling, Engineering senior Clayton Dailey, the team’s crew chief, said in the most recent World Solar Challenge, where the team took fourth place, there was an extremely small difference in the performance and proficiency of the top performing solar cars. He said the team decided they needed to be innovative for this year’s race.
“Being successful demands innovation and sacrifice,” Dailey said. “I reckon most teams will take the safe, familiar route and produce another successful iteration of their previously proven cars. We have taken the road less travelled.”
David Taylor, vice president of global marketing for Siemens PLM Software, also spoke before unveiling speaking on how the Michigan Solar Car team at the forefront of innovation in the world of solar car evolution.
“You can’t continue to rest on the things that’ve always made you successful, that is a recipe for failure moving forward,” Taylor said. “You have to be conscious that somebody is constantly trying to disrupt you. The approach that they’ve taken is they are not a disruptor, they are changing the game.”
Engineering sophomore Andrew Dickinson, race strategist and a first-year member of the Michigan Solar Car team, said with the team’s long-running record of victories and vehicle design, it stands out from all its competitors.
“We beat our closest competitor in the American Solar Challenge by eleven hours,” Dickinson said. “Our race cars are more aerodynamic and our race procedures are very good. Some teams don’t even have a strategies division.”
For LSA sophomore Vignesh Jagathese, who serves on the interim leadership for the team and works with the team’s operational logistics, said how, by joining the team, he’s gained the ability to work with students from various disciplines and helped him to think critically.
“It taught me how to work with people,” Jagathese said. “It taught me how to learn things on the fly. I’m a math major and just joining an engineering team and realizing there are a lot of people here who study this and you should be able to work with them and understand what they’re doing.”
Engineering sophomore Janice Lau, who is also a first-year member on the team, discussed how becoming a crew member has helped shape her perspective on future careers.
“I got a lot of experience handling the operations of a team,” Lau said. “We build a car, design a car, we race it, but there’s so much more besides the designing, manufacturing stage. We handle a lot of other logistics that keep the team moving.”
The team is set to compete this fall in the 3,000-kilometer 2017 World Solar Car Race from Darwin, Australia to Adelaide, Australia from October 8 to October 12.