Solar-powered car built by U of C students wins international race

A team of engineering students from the University of Calgary raced its vehicle, which is powered by solar and electrical energy, in Austin, Texas, over the weekend.

Two-seater can go upwards of 100 km/h on flat roads

The University of Calgary Solar Car Team poses with its two-seater "Schulich Elysia." (Supplied by Rob Dunn)

A solar-powered car built by a team of Calgary engineering students came first place in its category at an international racing competition over the weekend. 

The University of Calgary Solar Car Team raced its vehicle, which runs solely on solar and electrical energy, against other student-built cars in the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

The two-seater — who the team calls "Schulich Elysia" — won the multi-occupant vehicle class in the team's best competition run to date.

"There's so much that went into this car over the last few years and to go down and race against schools from around North America and come first, it's an incredible feeling," said Rob Dunn, a fourth-year electrical engineering student who is the team's captain.

Rob Dunn says it's "extremely likely" there will be solar-powered cars in the market in the near future. (Supplied by Rob Dunn)

The vehicle is about the size of a Honda Civic and weighs about 1,000 lbs. 

It clocked about 90 km/h on the F1 track, Dunn said, adding it can go upwards of 100 km/h on flat roads.

Students did everything from designing the car to driving it. 

The team raced it on the Circuit of The Americas track, the same track where the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix and IndyCar Classic are held.

Dunn said the judges assess cars based on lap speed, passenger count and whether or not it can be charged from the wall — the Calgary team's car can be. 

The team also won awards for the vehicle's mechanical design, multi-occupant charging system and aesthetics.

The vehicle is covered in solar panels. (Supplied by Rob Dunn)

"The main difference, I'd say, between it and a Tesla would be the amount of power it has," Dunn said. "Our car has much less power and it's much more efficient. It's designed for long distance endurance race more than a sprint."

He added that going 50 km/h on a sunny day, the car is also practically "net zero" as it requires about 1,000 watts to run and collects about 1,000 watts from sunrays. 

Calgary beat out teams including the University of Waterloo, Michigan State University and  University of California, Berkeley.  

Polytechnique Montréal came first place in the single-occupancy vehicle class. 

A Netherlands-based start-up released a prototype for an electric vehicle covered in solar panels, earlier this year. The Lightyear One is expected to be on the roads in 2021. 

With files from The Homestretch


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