The American Solar Challenge Formula Sun Grand Prix, an automobile race powered strictly by solar electricity, rolled through Hot Springs this summer en route the the finish line at Wind Cave National Park just north of the city.
A dozen cars, lightweight vehicles arrayed with solar photo voltaic panels, represented North America’s top universities and engineering schools. The vehicles competed in the 8-day, 1,975-mile road course from Brecksville, OH, to Hot Springs.
The University of Michigan was the overall winner, with a total time of 48 hours, 26 minutes.
The race is a way for student teams to hone their design and engineering skills in a real-world challenge that advances solar technology.
Successfully completing the ASC competition is a hugely rewarding accomplishment, but it requires over a year of intense focus and hard work from every team that enters the race, and there are no shortage of hurdles to overcome along the way, race officials said.
Teams must design and build a solar powered vehicle that meets every requirement set forth in the contest regulations. On the road, they must put their cars through a variety of road and weather conditions, and devise strategies to meet those challenges.
In fact, the final day of the race presented its own challenges, mainly a lack of sunshine. Usually, South Dakota’s Black Hills are bathed in sunlight. But the final day of the race proved rainy and cloudy. The cars, which normally cruise at 50 to 60 mph, limped through the last few miles using up what battery power was left.