The Vehicle Design Summit (VDS) at MIT is a summer project involving the collaboration of about 50 students from 21 universities and 13 countries. Their goal is to design and build 5 high-mileage vehicles which include a plugin-electric, a fuel cell car, another running off ethanol and a Honda Insight conversion to full electricity.

The 5th car, the only one they brought to Ecofest, is a 3-wheel, human-electric hybrid. It's powered by the driver via bicycle pedals with electric motor assistance. The batteries are charged from foldable solar panels.

The human-solar hybrid, dubbed Fishy because of the car's appearance with it's shell in place, uses an NGM Brushless 3-phase AC motor to power the rear wheel. The frame is constructed from welded steel tubes and uses a shell made from carbon fiber and Kevlar while the overall weight of the car is about 250 pounds.

I spoke to Olin College sophomore Matthew Ritter and Genasun co-founder and designer Alex MeVay, an MIT graduate.

Genasun is an electronics company that provides a line of solar charge controllers, used in Fishy, that allows an increase of 10-30 percent in power derived from solar panels.

While chatting with Alex about solar vehicles, he referred to a humorous conversation he had with a relative. She asked him when she could buy a solar car saying that if they can race across Australia it can certainly get her to the market. His response was that with the way solar car technology is right now, "it's actually harder getting to the market." In addition to his other endeavors, Alex has sailed across the Atlantic on wind and solar power alone, though, he admittedly says, "I, did however, use some fossil fuels to cook dinner."

Matthew told me that Fishy was designed and built in a staggering 2 and a half months during which the entire group worked all day and night. One of the end results was that during the VDS final review which included their major sponsors in the audience, the team leader, Jarrod Bushard, actually fell asleep at the podium during his slide presentation.

Unfortunately, the VDS student designers did not bring Fishy's shell, so we can't comment on the odd nickname.

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