“Go fast, go smooth, go blue.”
These were the words of inspiration imparted yesterday to the University”s solar car team by Bob Culver, executive director of United States Council for Automotive Research.
The sixth generation of the University”s solar car team yesterday unveiled its newest model, “M-Pulse,” which it hopes will win a pair of solar car races this summer.
The team will compete in the qualifying races in Topeka, Kan., and then in the American Solar Car Challenge and the World Solar Challenge. The American Solar Challenge is a 2,200-mile race from Chicago to Los Angeles. The World Solar Challenge is a shorter race, an 1,800-mile journey across the Australian continent from Darwin to Adelaide.
The 2001 team”s effort “started right on the heels of the “99 project with several members sticking around,” said Rackham student Nader Schwayhat, the team captain and race manager.
The M-Pulse solar car “is a showcase of technology and its possibilities some new cars (in the commercial market) are beginning to use solar cells to keep cars cool in summer,” Schwayhat said.
Brian Gilchrist, an associate professor of electrical engineering and space sciences and the team”s faculty adviser, said the team is a “real world experience for our University of Michigan students.”
“It isn”t about the technology, it is about the team and the kids who work with budgets, time constraints and innovations,” said Culver, a longtime employee of the Ford Motor Co.
The reputation of the University”s solar car team has made it possible for many former members of the team to be recruited by automotive corporations.
“We”ve hired former team members and they”ve hit the ground running,” Culver said.
The organization gives participants real-life experience with design, funding and mechanics as well as knowledge about working as a team.
“I work closely with the sponsors to ensure they get everything out of the investment,” said Schwayhat, who is interested in the business and entrepreneurial side of the team.
All members of the team give up much of their time to be a part of the organization. Those who wish to drive the vehicle must undergo extensive testing.
“Drivers have to try out and are selected from rigorous trials where they get a feel for how the cars handle,” Schwayhat said.
He added that those members who wish to travel with the team also have to endure a rigorous interview process.
The team members are a group diverse in their engineering interests and ages. Operations leader Kim Lytle said she became involved with the team through a friend.
“My friend wanted me to get involved, but she didn”t like it and I did, so I stuck around. I was in LSA and I transferred to Engineering,” said Lytle, a sophomore.
Frank Fetters, an Engineering sophomore who is in charge of the home operations team, said he became involved with the solar car team because “it is the largest student organization and the most renowned.”
The team has twice been the champion of the American Solar Car Challenge, once in 1990 and again in 1993. This year they hope to emerge victorious again as they have had added lots of new technology and “upped the ante,” said LSA senior Joseph Lambert, the car”s crew chief.
“The winners of the “99 Australia race they”ll have a real shock when they see this baby,” said Chuck Hudgens, a University alum.