GM Design helps U-M students develop new solar race car

Engineering students at the University of Michigan have been building solar powered racers for many years. Currently they are working on their ninth generation car called Continuum with technical assistance from General Motors. Staff at the Pre-Production Operations (PPO) Design Center shop at the Warren, MI Tech Center are providing resources to the team to help design and fabricate the car. The PPO staff are providing equipment to help cut the foam to be used for molds for the vehicle's body, and UAW staff are helping the students with actually fabricating the fiberglass body panels. The U-M team will be competing in the 1800 mile Panasonic World Solar Challenge in Australia this fall, against teams from around the world.

Click on the thumbnails to see images from U of M's solar cars at this year's NAIAS.

[Source: General Motors]

GM Design's PPO Shops Helps U Of M Engineering Students Develop The Continuum Solar Race Car

WARREN, Mich. – As automakers continue to seek alternative energy solutions, the Pre-Production Operations (PPO) Design Center shop, located at GM's Technical Center, is providing resources to develop engineering and design solutions for Continuum, the University of Michigan's ninth-generation solar car team.

"GM's leadership and PPO represented employees are pleased to assist in this effort and partner with the University of Michigan," says Rosanne Bachor, executive director, Manufacturing Engineering and alumna graduate from the University of Michigan Engineering School and member of Tauber Manufacturing Institute's Industry Advisory Board. "We are proud to support educational initiatives like this, and others, with our resources and technology."

Early in December, the PPO shops began to receive donated high-density foam panel blocks that would serve as the foundations of the mold-making process. Math data from the Design Intent Engineering firm was used to create cutter paths for the machines, and operators began milling top and bottom foam "plugs" in the sleek shape of the car's body. Additionally, the shapes of smaller components were directly milled into high-temperature resistant foam blocks.

Students and represented UAW employees will work side-by-side in early February to complete the production implementation phase by coating the milled foam pieces with fiberglass cloth and resins that will harden to form the upper, lower, and flange molds.

Once complete, the students will take all of the completed molds to an aerospace facility in Lansing to fabricate the carbon-fiber panels which will serve as the finished body for the vehicle. Then, these parts will go to Ann Arbor to begin integration into the structure of their solar race car – with chassis components crafted of carbon fiber and light-weight metals – and the addition of sophisticated electronics for power and control of the racer.

GM has a renewed focus on energy diversity as a means to meet the world's demand for automobiles, while minimizing the impact of this growth on the environment. Many groundbreaking technologies, created by GM's Tech Center employees, include advanced cars, GM's E85 FlexFuel, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. Most recently, GM introduced the Chevrolet Volt concept with E-Flex technology, an electrically driven propulsion system.

"We are interested in these kinds of projects – projects that incorporate innovation, technology and natural resources, and those that protect our global environment with unique solutions," said Bachor. "GM is committed to energy diversity and finding alternate propulsion breakthroughs."

The Continuum will face off with the best teams in the world this fall in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge, an 1800-mile trek through the Australian Outback. Top competition comes from places as far as Turkey, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Australia, Iran, France, and Canada as well as other U.S. teams. In preparation for the fall race season in Australia, the team will be training across 4,000 miles of American highways – spanning between Austin, Texas and Winnipeg, Canada.

Design Center PPO shops – led by Manager and UM engineering alumnus David Bolognino – are responsible for design fabrication of General Motors' concept and pre-production vehicles. PPO operations include fabrication and process engineering, rapid prototype, trim, plaster and plastics, wood shop, digital measurement and CAM operations, and paint and metal operations. Approximately 450 represented employees work in the Design Center's PPO shops.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader for 76 years. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 284,000 people around the world. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. In 2006, nearly 9.1 million GM cars and trucks were sold globally under the following brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on GM can be found at

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