Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan Solar Car team took third place at this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia and was the only American team to cross the finish line. There were more than 40 teams. The 1,800-mile race took the team five days and ended in Adelaide, South Australia.
The race started at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13 local time. The student organization responsible for designing and building the car has more than 100 students, all undergrads.
“I’m so proud of my entire team,” says Andrew Dickinson, project manager of the team and a junior studying computer science. “This team had so many curve balls thrown at us when we made this car, and we handled every one of them … I’m overjoyed and a little sad it’s over.”
The car, Electrum, required only a few roadside stops. The team’s lightweight lithium polymer cells were a risk in their design that ended up paying off as a reliable substitute to the traditional lithium ion batteries used in the past.
To qualify for the competition and determine starting position, the teams were tested based on a single lap around a track. U-M placed 10th in challenger class.
The competition began in Darwin, Northern Australia. On the fourth day of the race, winds at 40 mph caused crashes for two of the leading teams, ending the race for one and slowing the other down significantly. No one was hurt.
U-M held fourth position by the morning of the final day of racing behind Vattenfall, which won seven of the past World Solar Challenges, Agoria, and Tokai University solar teams. At the beginning of the day, Vattenfall’s battery caught fire, and the team had to stop a few hundred kilometers from the finish line.
Electrum is the 15th car made by Michigan Solar since being founded in 1989. The team has won the American Solar Challenge nine times, had podium finishes in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge six times, and won its first international championship in 2015 at the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge.