SOLAR RACE: ISU Students Competing

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A group of Iowa State University students is gearing up for a road race with a car that looks anything but ordinary.

The team is in New York this month for the American Solar Challenge. But, members don’t have to worry about the price at the pump to fuel the competition.

Iowa State University Graduate Evan Stumpges says he enjoys working in the garage. He says, “It’s a lot of fun. It allows me to learn a lot more than I would just in the classroom.”

But, he isn’t just working on any car. He says, “This is actually our 11th solar car.” And, this isn’t just any group of classmates. He says, “We are the PriSUm solar car team at Iowa State University. This is a completely student run organization dedicated to building, raising and demonstrating solar vehicles and solar technology.”

The team raised $330,000 to start building the car in 2010. It’s called Hyperion. It runs off the power the solar panels on top produce. It evolved from the team’s last vehicle that competed in 2010. The ISU team has built a new car every two years, since the club formed. Stumpges says, “This has been going on since 1989, which is coincidentally the year I was born.”

The car may not look like one you’ve ever seen before. But, it does have something every other vehicle on the road has: a license plate. Stumpges says, “It is road ready, and we love taking it all over the place.”

This month, they’ve taken it to New York state for the American Solar Challenge. They’ll first race the solar car around a Monticello Motor Club in New York. Then, it will make a 1,650 mile trek from Rochester, New York to St. Paul, Minnesota.

The car can reach speeds of 71 miles per hour, but will most likely cruise around 45 mph for the cross country race. Stumpges says, “The speed that we really care about is called the cruising speed, that’s basically the speed we can drive all day long without stopping.”

Iowa State University Senior Jonathan Bauer says, “It’s kind of interesting to see something you’ve kind of designed on paper in the computer actually come out and be right in front of you.”

The team is currently in second in the three day qualifying race. The American Solar Challenge road race starts Saturday, July 14 and will take a week.

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