University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project – Eos II

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project (UMNSVP) recently completed the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge using a vehicle they designed and created from start to finish. Coastal Enterprises was honored to donate Precision Board HDU to the team for use in fabricating their vehicle.  This is their story.  

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The team spent two years developing Eos II, a solar-electric vehicle prototype. They used blocks of PBLT-18 to create the molds for Eos II, into which carbon fiber sheets were laid to create the body itself.

Once the vehicle was complete, the team headed to Australia to challenge some of the best solar car teams in the world in Australia in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.  Competitors’ vehicles charged primarily from the sun as they traversed some of the world’s most challenging landscapes in this 3,000 kilometer race from Darwin to Adelaide.

The team vehicle had to go through “scrutineering” before race day.  This is a process where a group of scrutineers review competition cars to ensure they are within technical specs for the race and to also ensure safety and fair play.

Some shots of the car getting ready to take off…and on the road during the race.

At the finish line after a long race.

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The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project was founded by a group of undergraduate students from the U of M College of Science and Engineering in 1990 and competed in the 1993 GM Sunrayce with its first Solar Car, Aurora I. Since then, The Solar Vehicle Project has remained true to its original foundation as a student administered, designed, and built project that teaches members about engineering and management in a complete product development environment. The team has built thirteen solar vehicles, and is one of the most decorated teams in America.

Eos II, the team’s most recent vehicle, exemplifies the change of direction that the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project has taken in recent years. The team was the first American team to compete in the Cruiser Class at the World Solar Challenge. In addition to speed, this class focuses on practicality and number of people in the car. This poses several new design criteria to give the team room to innovate.

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Last year, the Solar Vehicle Project placed fourth in the 2016 Formula Sun Grand Prix and tenth in the 2016 American Solar Challenge, the only cruiser competitor to qualify for either race. Next summer, Eos II will compete in the first ever Cruiser Class at the 2018 American Solar Challenge along the Oregon Trail!

You can see all the updates from fabrication through race day and re-live the team’s racing experience through their Twitter feed and Facebook page or on the official website.

If you are a school interested in a Precision Board donation for your project, please submit a Contact Us form and we’ll get back to you!

Bringing A Solar Car From Concept To Reality

Solar cars may sound like something out of the future, but students at the University of Michigan, and all over the world, design, build and race them each year. In fact, these aren’t just tiny school projects – these teams are sponsored by major auto manufacturers, and each car often ends up costing over a million dollars to create.

Recently, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team unveiled their 2013 car, “Generation”, at the GM Renaissance Center Winter Garden on June 18th to great fanfare prior to the upcoming World Solar Challenge in Australia.

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The World Solar Challenge will be attended by over 47 teams from 26 different countries and covers over 1,800 miles.

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While this is a friendly competition, desire to win is still fierce among teams. Many of the design and mechanical components of the Generation vehicle are top secret understandably, so we can’t say too much about the guts of the car. We were, however, able to speak with Operations Director and student Aaron Frantz, who gave us details of the current vehicle.

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Generation was designed and built over the course of a year by over 100 student team members and is designed to be as lightweight and energy efficient as possible.

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The University of Michigan Solar Car Program has four divisions dedicated to the successful creation of their Solar Cars:

Engineering: Composed of engineers who focus on the aerodynamics, body, mechanical, electrical and micro-electrical systems.

Business: Markets and advertises the team in order to procure the necessary resources to construct the state-of-the-art solar electric vehicle.

Strategy: Maximizes the performance of the vehicle on race day by performing extensive weather tests and also designing custom software to analzye and predict the most efficient way to run the race.

Operations: Takes care of all logistics and also maintains a safe and effective camp abroad for several months.

Precision Board Plus PBLT-20 and PBLT-30 HDU, donated by Coastal Enterprises, was used to make male plugs for the upper and lower surfaces, canopy and chassis. After being CNC machined by Excel Pattern Works, the Precision Board was coated with Duratec for a smooth finish before being sprayed with fiberglass by General Motors to create female molds which were then used to make carbon fiber tools.

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Interesting facts about the car:

  • There is no air conditioning, only a small vent for the driver to get fresh air
  • Drivers are switched after no more than 6 hours
  • The car is equipped with a speedometer and a rear-view camera
  • A chase and lead vehicle accompany each solar-powered car throughout the course of the race
  • The University of Michigan chase vehicle houses the Crew Chief and Head Race Strategist, who monitor all aspects of the solar vehicle using high-tech equipment through the entire course of the race
  • The car has absolutely no transmission and is powered by a single “in-hub motor
  • Teams may only race between the hours of 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, camping overnight where ever they happen to be at 5:00.

Until the start of the World Solar Challenge in October, Generation will be undergoing extensive testing to ensure safety and reliability for the race.

Be sure to check back in this fall for an after race update and pictures from the Australian Frontier.

Precision Board Plus PBLT-20 machined by Excel Pattern Works prior to being coated with Duratec and sprayed with fiberglass: