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

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.

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 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.

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