Illini Solar Car makes first appearance in American Solar Challenge
A few weeks ago, the Illini Solar Car team competed in the American Solar Challenge, marking the first year the team participated competitively in this event.
The team was restarted by engineering undergraduates, including several from MechSE, in 2014 after a multi-year hiatus, and over the course of three years built their first vehicle, Argo. They participated in their first event, the 2017 World Solar Challenge, last October. They took Argo to Nebraska to run its first competitive race, and came in 7th out of nine teams.
The American Solar Challenge (ASC) is a biennial eight-day event in which teams drive a total of 1,774 miles across five states, from Nebraska to Oregon. The competition has numerous events to ensure the car is safe enough to drive on the public road. The first challenge is passing Scrutineering, in which judges determine if the car passes all the required regulations. Cars then move on to the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP), where they are required to complete a predetermined number of laps with a number of drivers to qualify for ASC.
The competition is “designed to provide teams with a great opportunity to demonstrate their solar cars under real world driving conditions and thoroughly test the reliability of all onboard systems.” It also forces teams to budget their energy based on weather and various conditions. This year, a major challenge introduced in the competition was an elevation change. The teams had to consider the amount of energy needed to go up and into the mountains.
Next year, the team is looking to make a brand new car to compete in the World Solar Challenge 2019 due to some significant changes in the competition rules. They already have begun designing their next car, and are excited to begin building it later this semester once the design is finalized.
However, this may not have been the last of Argo.
“We may still take Argo to some track-based events over the next year or two. Argo will instead be used primarily for outreach events and teaching new members over the next year,” said undergraduate Jonathan Mullen, the team’s Director of Operations.