North American Solar Challenge
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The American Solar Challenge (ASC), previously known as the North American Solar Challenge and Sunrayce, is a solar car race across the United States. In the race, teams from colleges and universities throughout North America design, build, test, and race solar-powered vehicles in a long distance road rally-style event. ASC is a test of teamwork, engineering skill, and endurance that stretches across thousands of miles of public roads.
Format and organization
- Race consists of a series of timed stages between predetermined locations; all teams begin and end each stage in the same location
- The team with the lowest overall elapsed time wins
- The total area of all solar cells and related reflectors, etc. must not exceed 6 square meters
- When the vehicle has stopped, the solar array may be reoriented toward the sun for charging batteries
- Strict specifications and engineering scrutiny process is provided for vehicle configuration, safety requirements, and other standards
- Previous races have divided teams into open and stock classes based on levels of solar cell and battery technologies.
- The Formula Sun Grand Prix track race serves as a qualifier for the more prestigious ASC.
Originally called Sunrayce USA, the first race was organized and sponsored by General Motors in 1990 in an effort to promote automotive engineering and solar energy among college students. At the time, GM had just won the inaugural World Solar Challenge in Australia in 1987; rather than continue actively racing, it instead opted to sponsor collegiate events.
Subsequent races were held in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1999 under the name Sunrayce [year] (e.g. Sunrayce 93). In 2001, the race was renamed American Solar Challenge and was sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Beginning in 2005, its name changed again to its present form to reflect the border crossing into Canada and the addition of co-sponsor Natural Resources Canada. The name was changed back to ASC in 2010.
After the 2005 race, the U.S. Department of Energy discontinued its sponsorship, resulting in no scheduled race for 2007. Sponsorship was taken over for NASC 2008 by Toyota. The American Solar Challenge is now governed by the Innovators Educational Foundation.
The original, 1,800 mi (2,900 km) Sunrayce USA route started at Disney World in Orlando, Florida and ended at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. The winner of the first race was the University of Michigan Solar Car Team's Sunrunner, with an average speed of 24.7 mph (39.8 km/h), followed by Western Washington University's Viking XX.
Sunrayce 93 was held June 20–26, 1993. The race route covered over 1,100 miles (1,800 km) starting in Arlington, TX and ending in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The first place car was Maize & Blue from the University of Michigan followed by the Intrepid from Cal Poly Pomona.
Sunrayce 95 ran along a 1,600-mile (2,600 km) route from Indianapolis, Indiana to Golden, Colorado. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Manta won the race with an average speed of 37.23 mph (59.92 km/h), followed by the University of Minnesota's Aurora II just 18 minutes behind.
Sunrayce 1997 followed a familiar route from Indianapolis, Indiana to a finish line in Colorado Springs, Colorado. California State University-Los Angeles's Solar Eagle III won the nine-day Sunrayce 97. Solar Eagle III averaged 43.29 mph (69.67 km/h), followed by MIT's Manta GT in second place.
Sunrayce 99, running from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida, was notable for its lack of sunshine. The University of Missouri-Rolla's Solar Miner II won the race with an average speed of 25.3 mph (40.7 km/h). The car from Queen's University placed second.
In 2001, the race changed its name to the American Solar Challenge and followed a new route from Chicago, Illinois to Claremont, California along much of the old U.S. Route 66. The University of Michigan won the overall race and the Open Class with a total elapsed time of 56 hours, 10 minutes, and 46 seconds, followed by the University of Missouri-Rolla. The University of Arizona team won the Stock Class event.
The 2003 American Solar Challenge also followed U.S. Route 66. Solar Miner IV from the University of Missouri-Rolla won the race overall, as well as the Open Class, followed by the University of Minnesota's Borealis II. The Stock Class was won by the Prairie Fire GT from North Dakota State University.
The 2005 race, renamed the North American Solar Challenge, was both the longest and most hotly contested race in the history of the event. The route covered 2,494.9 mi (4,015.2 km), taking the teams from Austin, Texas in the United States to Calgary, Alberta in Canada. The race was won by the Momentum from the University of Michigan with an average speed of 46.2 mph (74.4 km/h). The University of Minnesota's Borealis III followed in second place less than 12 minutes behind. The lead teams often drove 65 mph (105 km/h) (the maximum allowed), but were slowed by rain in Kansas and 20 mph (32 km/h) headwinds in Canada. Stanford University's Solstice won the Stock Class in 2005, followed in second place by the Beam Machine from The University of California, Berkeley.
The 2008 North American Solar Challenge took place on July 13–22, 2008, mostly along the 2005 route from Dallas, Texas to Calgary, Alberta. The University of Michigan's Continuum won the race with a total elapsed time of 51 hours, 41 minutes, and 53 seconds, marking that school's fifth victory. Ra 7 from Principia College followed in second place.
As many of the top cars were bumping up against the 65 mph (105 km/h) race speed limit in the 2005 event, race rules were changed for 2008 order to improve safety and limit performance. Open class cars are now only allowed 6 square meters of active cell area, and upright seating is required for both open and stock class cars. The changes were carried over from the 2007 World Solar Challenge.
The 2010 race, renamed the American Solar Challenge, ran June 20–26, 2010. The University of Michigan finished in first place, followed by the University of Minnesota's Centaurus II' in 2nd place and team Bochum from Germany in 3rd. The race route was entirely within the United States starting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, passing through Neosho, MO, Topeka, KS, Jefferson City, MO, Rolla, MO, Alton, IL, and Normal, IL to end in Naperville, Illinois.
Only four teams finished the 2012 American Solar Challenge, a 1600 mile race from Rochester, NY to St. Paul, MN, under solar power alone. The University of Michigan's Quantum won the overall competition, over 10 hours ahead of the 2nd place team, breaking the previous record set by Michigan's "Continuum". The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place teams were only an hour apart from each other. In order: Iowa State University's Hyperion, Principia College's Ra7s, and the University of California, Berkeley's Impulse.
The 2014 American Solar Challenge reverted to the familiar south-north race route starting in Austin, Texas, and finishing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The University of Michigan's Quantum once again took 1st place, followed by University of Minnesota's Centaurus III.
Other solar vehicle challenges
- Formula Sun Grand Prix
- World Solar Challenge, the biennial World Championship solar car race held in Australia
- South African Solar Challenge, a biennial South African event that was first held in 2008
- The Solar Car Challenge, an annual event for High School students from the U.S. and (to a lesser extent) other parts of the world, first held in 1995
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to North American Solar Challenge.|
- American Solar Challenge
- Formula Sun Grand Prix
- Video coverage of the race from 1990, 1993, and 1997