North Carolina State students take unusual approach to solar vehicle competition
Most vehicles entered into the American Solar Challenge focus solely on performance and energy efficiency, but N.C. State University’s SolarPack plans to emphasize practicality as well.
The American Solar Challenge is a competition to create and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country race. SolarPack, led by senior Bryon Spells, wants to create a solar vehicle that actually looks like a typical car, unlike the majority of other teams’ vehicles. While performance and energy efficiency are important, SolarPack’s goal is to create a marketable vehicle rather than win first place.
“We spent a lot of time scratching our heads and being confused because there was no pre-existing platform for us to build on, no foundation,” Spell said in a news release. “Historically, a mechanical engineer with maybe a little bit of electrical experience could be the only person designing the car. It’s not that way anymore.”
The car has not been assembled yet, but its motor is the most powerful that has ever been entered into the American Solar Challenge. Spells plans to test the vehicle around March to allow time for adjustments before for the qualifying race in July in Hastings, Neb. Successful teams will spend the following nine days racing through checkpoints over 1,700 miles from Nebraska to Oregon.