U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
  • U of M Generation solar car
The University of Michigan has built a vehicle just about any green-car enthusiast would appreciate, except maybe those from Ohio State University.

Last week, U of M unveiled its "Generation" solar-powered electric vehicle that it is entering in Australia's World Solar Challenge. The team building the car includes more than 100 members and is integrating facets of its previous entries, most obvious are the solar panels used to power the car's electric motor, with newer components required by the rule that this year's vehicles need to have four wheels instead of just three.

The World Solar Challenge is run every two years and Michigan finished third in 2011, the fifth time it finished in that position. This year's week-long event will see the student teams travel 1,800 miles across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide in early October. Check out the University's press release below.
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New solar car from U-Michigan has sleek, asymmetrical design

ANN ARBOR-The lopsided solar car named Generation, unveiled today, might be the oddest-looking vehicle the top-ranked University of Michigan team has ever built. But the bold shape is a calculated effort to design the most efficient car possible, given major changes in World Solar Challenge race rules.

The World Solar Challenge is an 1,800-mile, week-long endurance contest across the continent of Australia that takes place every other fall. The U-M team has come in third place five times, most recently in 2011. The reigning national champions are hoping that Generation can carry them to their first world race victory this October.

"We spent a lot of time refining the design and we're feeling really good about it," said Eric Hausman, team project manager and senior in industrial and operations engineering.

The most significant rule change for 2013 is that cars must have four wheels instead of three. That, Hausman says, is the biggest shift since 2007, when the driver moved from lying down to seated. Both new requirements called for teams to essentially start from scratch and outline new vehicle shapes.

"So in '07, you had to figure out where to put the driver in the air foil," Hausman said. "This year, it's similar. You have to figure out how to arrange the wheels and the driver in the new optimal position, and we think we've found that basic geometry."

The component the team had the most leeway with wasn't the wheels, but rather the driver's seat-nicknamed the "butt bucket" by the team because that's essentially what it is. In the old three-wheeled cars, the butt bucket was situated right behind the front wheel-encased in the same fairing, actually.

Under the new rules, the wheels can't be right next to each other, so if the team were to arrange them like wheels in a regular car, the bucket would hang down below the lower surface, reducing the car's efficiency. So the team didn't put it there.

"We have the driver and two wheels all in one giant fairing on the left side of the car and on the right side, we have two small fairings-one for each wheel," Hausman said. "Aerodynamically, it's about creating as few bumps on the surface as possible. The design also reduces shading of the solar cells by placing the canopy to the side."

From the front, Generation is reminiscent of a motorcycle with a sidecar, but it's not as lopsided as it looks, the students say. The team put most of the heavy equipment on what would be the passenger's side to keep Generation's center of gravity in its center-where it needs to be to keep the car stable.

"Having four wheels will change a lot of things about the way we race this car," said Matt Goldstein, a senior in computer science and engineering who heads the team's strategy division. "This is a new concept to us and a different design, so we will have to adjust our strategy appropriately. The new regulations will definitely stir the pot and I am excited to make our best shot at a championship."

The team has described its cars as "ultimate electric vehicles," as they run off a battery charged by sunlight. While solar cars aren't likely to be viable in the near future, there are other more immediate applications for the technologies the team develops, working in close collaboration with industry. And the new rules, which also require that drivers sit slightly more upright and have a wider field of vision, make the 2013 vehicles a bit more like cars on the road today.

"We are very proud of this car," said crew chief Bryan Mazor, a senior in physics who leads the team's engineering division. "It is a very efficient, very aerodynamic design. We were also able to build faster than ever through the support of our sponsors. Now we'll be able to test every facet of this car, in preparation for World Solar Challenge."

Major sponsors this year include General Motors, Ford, IMRA, the U-M College of Engineering, Qatar Airways and Siemens.

The World Solar Challenge is Oct. 6-13, 2013, from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia. With more than 100 members from schools and colleges across the university, the U-M Solar Car Team is one of the largest student organizations on campus. U-M's team has finished first in the North American Solar Challenge seven times.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      EZEE
      • 8 Months Ago
      Hail! to the victors valiant Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes Hail! Hail! to Michigan The leaders and best! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY3M_9l_Rg8 The Greatest Football Call in History: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UA5oGtoRl0
      EZEE
      • 8 Months Ago
      Happy Dan Review: :) Light Weight :) Aero :| Performance (it won't be fast, but it certainly goes a long way) :( Cheap (no idea, but as a research vehicle and a one-off, it cannot be less than $20K) :) EV And special bonus :) for Solor Powered 4.5 Happy Dans - Highest Rated Car of All Time
      EZEE
      • 8 Months Ago
      Whoa....
      brotherkenny4
      • 8 Months Ago
      I would love to see a competition at the university level that had student designing and building a solar home charging system and a small commuter EV combination. It would be a better educational experience, because it would be more real world. So, maybe, a 100 mile EV for two or four passengers.
        SublimeKnight
        • 8 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Its a competition, so no matter how you set it up, it will always become something non-real world. The car would look like this one and "house" would be shaped in whatever way permits the most solar energy to be collected. This is actually more real world as you could envision a solar array 10x-20x the size of this on the roof of a house to run a commuter car 3x the size driving 2x-3x as fast.
        Jim1961
        • 8 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Are you serious? That stuff already exists and you can buy it now.
        BraveLil'Toaster
        • 8 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Actually, I saw just such a competition along these lines about 7 years ago. They made their houses efficient enough that they could almost reach their energy goals on rainy days. The vehicles they used were NEVs though.
        paulwesterberg
        • 8 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        There are other engineering completions that focus on other types of vehicles. I think that it is great that this competition is focused almost exclusively on maximum efficiency.
      Andreas O Gatos
      • 8 Months Ago
      Just wondering now: For how long have these solar powered vehicles been promoted and by whom? Is there any chance these will ever replace everyday vehicles or are they just greenwashing? So please stop posting these articles, maybe then the universities involved with focus on actual green car technologies
        lord.phaggle
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Andreas O Gatos
        They do. It's called ecocar, idiot. Maybe you should stop complaining about how colleges choose to educate their students, especially since you obviously haven't ever attended on yourself.
          EZEE
          • 8 Months Ago
          @lord.phaggle
          Yea Andreas, you D*CK! Sorry, got caught up in the vitriol.... These are good due to research. No, this exact car won't make it to production (obviously), but like many other things, sometimes advances can be made through research. For example, when working on a coolant for the space shuttle, they discovered that the coolant was on toxic, and very, very slippery. It also stayed slippery. Everyone looked at each there, and after tissues were used, it was proclaimed 'AstroGlide!' True story. Except for (maybe) the part about the tissues.
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