Something a little different in the solar car space today. Will Jones and Kyle Samluk are mechanical engineering students from two different universities in Michigan, with a background in a high school team. Eschewing the mainstream competitions (as many major teams are doing), they have built their own solar car, and between 22 June and 6 July they are planning to drive it the 4,900 km or so of the Cannonball Run from New York to Los Angeles.
The US has been crossed in a solar car before (in 2012), when Bochum’s SolarWorld GT made its round-the-world trip. It clocked up a scenic 6,553 km in just over 50 days, from San Francisco via Dallas to Charleston, SC, requiring frequent charging stops and additional solar panels in the trunk. Will and Kyle, assisted by fellow-student Danny Ezzo, hope to cross the US in less than a third of the time. You can follow their progress on their website and on Instagram or Facebook. They are also raising funds needed for the trip.
Top L: Pink Skies with aerobody but no solar panels, Top R: Pink Skies with solar panels but no aerobody, Bottom L: chassis, showing tadpole wheel configuration, Bottom R: rear (driven) wheel [images from the Pink Skies team].
The chassis of their car Pink Skies is a monocoque made from sheet aluminium, with bulkheads riveted in (it looks more like an Abrams tank than an aircraft, to be honest). The solar panels appear to be originally intended for rooftop use. They make up about a third of the weight, but produce a substantial 2.2 kW of power (roughly double that of a typical ASC or BWSC car).
For energy storage, Will and Kyle have taken the safer LiFePO4 option. The suspension is pretty much missing in action, so the ride is likely to be somewhat bumpy. Top speed appears to be an impressive 110 kph, with a 70 kph cruising speed. Will and Kyle also seem to have done a good job of engineering on-the-fly as testing revealed problems with the initial design. I salute their initiative and their vision and I wish them well as they drive across the American continent.
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