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Missouri Wins American Solar Challenge 251

dagoalieman writes "The University of Missouri - Rolla won this year's 2300 mile American Solar Challenge. The roughly 339lb car (517lb with driver) with 1500 watts of power won by nearly 5 hours - here's the final results. UMR has now won two out of the past three races, finishing second in the last race, to Michigan. Congrats, and good luck to them in the World Solar Challenge!"
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Missouri Wins American Solar Challenge

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  • Now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gerf ( 532474 ) <> on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:34PM (#6517274) Journal
    I'd like to see real applications. For example, if someone had a few cells on top of their Prius, and were driving cross country, or in Phoenix, how much would it help? This is the news i'd like to hear, the stuff that matters to me.
    • Re:Now... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:45PM (#6517364)
      Some cars have translucent solar cells embedded in their sunroofs. It first arrived on the now discontinued Mazda 929 and current Audi A6's and A8's have it. To give you an idea of the power generated, it was only used to power the fans to circulate air to cool the car down when it was sitting out in the sun.
      • Re:Now... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Waffle Iron ( 339739 )
        IIRC, the theory behind solar powered ventilation is to keep the cars from getting oven hot in the sun. That means that they can use a smaller lighter A/C system since they don't need to battle such extreme heat. (I remember reading somewhere that a typical car A/C unit could cool a small apartment.) The weight reduction provides the real energy savings by increasing the car's fuel economy.
    • Re:Now... (Score:5, Informative)

      by homer_ca ( 144738 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:50PM (#6517416)
      Well the specs in the Slashdot blurb are a little off. According to the Univ of Missouri site, it weighs 822 lbs with driver. Of that 176 lbs is the driver and 320 lbs is batteries.

      A Prius has about the same surface area as one of these solar racers. If you covered the entire car with solar cells, you'd get about the same power, 1500W max in bright sunlight at high noon. That's about 2HP which is less power than a 50cc moped, maybe as much power as a lawnmower, and maybe as much power as 3-4 professional bicycle racers. 2HP might be enough to run the headlights and A/C, but forget about it for moving 3000lbs of car + passengers.
      • Re:Now... (Score:5, Informative)

        by FatlXception ( 458604 ) <slash@fatlxcepti ... g ['ip.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:09PM (#6517544) Homepage
        I don't know where you're getting your specs but the headline is correct. Our batteries weigh 30kg (66 lbs) as per race rules. Maybe you're thinking of an old lead-acid based car. This car uses lithium-ion polymer batteries.

        And as for the question about the solar cells, they're certainly the single most expensive part of the car, but they're really not that bad. They're gallium arsenide cells sold to us at a steep discount by Spectrolab because they were rejected for use on satellites, but even their rejects are much better than standard silicon terrestrial-grade cells (which incidentally is what we won second with in 2001). The full grade cells run in the millions of dollars, but reject cells like ours can be found in the ballpark of tens of thousands. The bare cells themselves are not significantly thinner or lighter than any other type of cell, but I guarantee the packaging and encapsulation is.
      • Re:Now... (Score:3, Informative)

        by dagoalieman ( 198402 )
        The UMR Solar Team site appears to be outdated, and you're citing stats from the Solar Miner II- this year's car was Solar Miner IV. I'm looking for an updated set of stats for us to puruse.

        1500W was enough to power the car at 65mph most of the time, from what I've heard. Certainly, that's no 3000lb. But anyone who remembers races from 95, 97, etc. know that's a big improvement over past years. Also, so far as I know UMR only had one "repair" stop during the racing day (on the first day) and the rest
      • Our 22 year old POS lawnmower had 3.5hp when it was new. ANy new lawnmower has at least five ponies, but it more likely has at least six. Riding mowers I believe start around 20hp.
        • Re:Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by timjdot ( 638909 )

          I know y'all never researched this any eh? Electric motors are rated on continuous output for 30 minutes or something like that while ICE's are rated on peak output. So you can 3x any electrical motor number or something like that. My father-in-law maintins the beetle and the CRX were some of the best cars ever built as they were so lite one could get $50 MPG. Not to mention all that other parts needed for gas-based cars which are not needed on electric cars.

          Anyways, the whole issue with usefulness is batt

          • Exactly. As far as energy-density goes, there isn't anything out there right now that beats fossil fuels, esp. when you figure in transportation and storage costs.
      • Re:Now... (Score:3, Funny)

        by malia8888 ( 646496 )
        The roughly 339lb car (517lb with driver) with 1500 watts of power won by nearly 5 hours -

        Heck, if I can find a 105 lb jockey and strap him on a fiberglass board with my 1500 W hair dryer I'd beat the weight class.....Oh yeah, the a-c plug....damn!.

      • Re:Now... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pj737 ( 678471 )
        Well, if you covered the entire car including its roof, hood, trunk and rear window (using less efficient transparent solar cells) with cells that automobile manufacturers could actually afford, you could maybe get away with 800 watts max in a practical application. And that's using cells of at least 18% efficiency. But, you have to consider that your car could be parked in the sun all or most of the day. That would yield (or store) anywhere from 3,200 - 4,800 watt-hours of energy. How much is that? Well
      • The amount of useable surface area that is horizontal is actually much less on a standard sedan than on a solar car. Even less on a Prius. The practical application here is not solar cars for the masses. The practical applications are:

        1) Solar Power elsewhere

        2) energy-efficient cars

        When you consider how fast these cars go and how little power they use to do it, it becomes obvious just how much room for improvement in current cars. For example, if we stopped using engines that produce 7 times as much
      • A Prius has about the same surface area as one of these solar racers

        Huh? I was on the (now defunct due to budget problems) University of Illinois Solar Racing Team. Almost all of the entries in the competition are about the length and width of a full size 9 passanger van, a far cry from a Prius...
    • Re:Now... (Score:3, Informative)

      1500 watts would be absolutely useless to any type of consumer vehicle. That's 2 horsepower. Your (push) lawnmower has more power. Try riding that across country.

      Besides, I'm sure they're using ultra-light ultra-expensive solar cells that you couldn't afford. The things you put on your house would barely generate enough energy to compensate for their own weight.
      • re: affordability (Score:4, Informative)

        by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:38PM (#6517700) Homepage Journal
        Actually, the rules for solar races almost always place a limit on the $/watt for the cells, so that competitors can't "buy" the win. (there are some much more efficient solar cells out there, but their cost is insanely high) This forces entrants to work on "the big picture", including vehicle weight, aerodynamics, electronics efficiency, and even their strategy. Many solar competitions allow one battery swap-out during the course of the run, and teams have to decide when the best time for this is, in addition to how hard to push the pedal when power's running low.
    • Re:Now... (Score:2, Informative)

      by emok ( 162266 )
      The purpose of the ASC isn't to bring solar cars to consumers--that will never be feasible. The purpose is to inform the public about alternate technologies and to encourage young engineers to think about energy efficieny in their future careers. See this faq: f
  • How long? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ravenousbugblatter ( 682061 ) <> on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:36PM (#6517283)
    Does anyone know if the times the race takes are getting shorter each year? In other words, is the technology actually getting better each year?
    • Re:How long? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cyclopedian ( 163375 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:41PM (#6517323) Journal
      Here's the results of the ASC race from 2001:
      Overall Results []

      The leader finished with 56:10:46, while this year's leader finished with 51:47:39. However, looking at the overall top 10, it appears that the 2001 field was slightly better than the top 10 of this year's field. I'd say it means that solar technology is advancing but at a somewhat slow pace. Until we hit that breakthrough that gets the solar efficiency past 40%, we won't see much of any daily applications of this tech.

      Then again, it's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


      • Re:How long? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:50PM (#6517410)
        "it appears that the 2001 field was slightly better than the top 10 of this year's field. I'd say it means that solar technology is advancing but at a somewhat slow pace."

        Maybe there was more sun that year.
      • Re:How long? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Most solar cells are 12-17% efficient. 40% would be a huge leap.
        • Re:How long? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Duncan3 ( 10537 )
          25-30% efficiency cells have been around for a while. I've even seen some report in the 35% range under normal solar spectrum.

          You can't afford them however. Warren Buffet could maybe cover his car roof, but not the hood and trunk. And then he'd be broke. The tech is easy waiting for the patents to expire is the hard part.

          In 15 years, having your house roof be 33% solar shingles will cost next to nothing, but for now, don't hold your breath.
      • If you notice, the top 3 are the same, and they all appear to have improved.
      • Until we hit that breakthrough that gets the solar efficiency past 40%, we won't see much of any daily applications of this tech.

        Then again, it's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

        I think you are wrong. Agreed it's only for specalised purposes, but solar power is practical and useful now. For example, a solar panel provides all the power for all the systems - navigation instruments, radio, GPS, interior lighting, navigation lights - on my boat [], and it does that reliably in Scotland which is not a s

        • Personally, I'd rather have such cheap and abundant energy that I can afford to be wasteful, rather than having to scrimp and save every milliamp I can just to use a "cool" technology.
      • If you don't insist on photovoltaic cells you can get more energy out of the sun.

        It's a bit more complex, requiring more innovation but I thought that's what it was all about.

    • Re:How long? (Score:5, Informative)

      by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:03PM (#6517509)
      I used to be on the Solar Race car team at UT, and I can tell you that the rules for this and Sunrayce are extremely restrictive as to what kind of cells and batteries you can use (to keep the rich schools from buying all the super-top-of-the-line stuff and outspending the competition), and you're limited to driving the speed limit. It's more of a competition about making a car that won't break down than about speed.
    • Re:How long? (Score:2, Informative)

      by emok ( 162266 )
      I believe that UMR was travelling at or near the posted speed limit for the entire race, so it's not really possible to finish much faster. ...yes the teams do have to obey traffic laws.
  • Missouri? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Is dat them Roads Scholars they got'n thar?
    • Re:Missouri? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Let me guess, you live on either the east or west coast?

      The University of Missouri Rolla is one of the top Engineering colleges in the country. It ranks right behind MIT and California Institute of Technology. Let's not forget Washington University based in Saint Louis, one of the leaders in the engineering and medical communities.

      Nice job being ignorant.
      • Re:Missouri? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by King_TJ ( 85913 )
        Well, don't be *too* hard on the original poster. I'm from St. Louis, Missouri myself and I laughed at it.

        Many folks who live near the coasts really don't have a clue what midwestern cities are like though. I've talked to a good number of native Californians on IRC chat in the past - and it's surprising how often the *only* thing they know of St. Louis is "Oh yeah, you're the city with that big arch, right?" They also often seem to think there is nothing else in Missouri except for farmland and camp sit
        • Re:Missouri? (Score:2, Informative)

          by domovoi ( 657518 )

          Another St. Louisan here. Don't forget the many [] unique [] places that make StL um...stand out.

          Then again, there are bunches [] of genuinely cool [] places [] and events [] that make the town with the easy-carry handle [] worth living in.

          UM-St. Louis also produces a seriously good literary magazine [] and has a strong creative writing program.

  • Usefullness (Score:1, Redundant)

    by buck_wild ( 447801 )
    So how will this technology be used in forthcoming products? Is there a value here?
  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:40PM (#6517309)
    "The roughly 339lb car (517lb with driver)"
    "Q: What does the car weigh?
    A: Solar Miner II weighs 822 pounds with the driver. The batteries alone weigh 320 pounds and our driver weighs 176 pounds. If the driver weighs in less than 176 pounds, he/she must carry lead shot with them to bring their weight to 176 pounds. "

    Is that 339lb figure from the article only the batteries?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That figure is for Solar Miner II, the car that won in 1999. The 339 pound figure is from Solar Miner IV, the car that won this year.
    • The site needs to be updated. That was Solar Miner II, the car UMR won with in 1999. The winner of this rayce (yes, spelled correctly damnit) was Solar Miner IV. It uses much lighter batteries and the car itself is much lighter as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:40PM (#6517314)
    CEO's of the Big Three yawned in unison when told about Missouri's victory.

    One of them asked "Was the winner an SUV that runs on gasoline?" When told the answer, he replied "whatever."
  • How about the American Solar Challenge/Houston 700? We know she can do 660 at a sitting but can she do 700? How about have her do this in each solar car while moving and rotating to each vehicle while moving in a continuous fashion?

    I smell paper view...actually I bet it'd smell a bit fishy...It's all about the ratings damnit!!

  • Woo! (Score:1, Troll)

    by Keeper ( 56691 )
    My college is actually good for something other than taking my money and giving me a diploma! :)
  • Congratulations Miners! Glad to hear you found something productive to do in Rolla. :) (Note to everyone else: this is my dad's alma mater...It's a great engineering school, but there's not much to do in Rolla, MO...I've heard the, er, stories.)
  • Looks like their server lost its juice.

    How about using the energy made by a slashdotting to power a server?

  • they closed the Subway(TM) in Stadium Village. Our driver was 330 pounds!

    Hardly fair.

  • by tds67 ( 670584 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:46PM (#6517379)
    I don't think these Universities should be promoting solar power. The sun is a finite resource. In about 4 billion years it'll be done for. Wasting its energy like this is not helpful.
    • It's even worse. Most of the energy the sun produces passes the earth altogether. Talking about waste.
      • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:11PM (#6517555)
        OK, enough waste. Bout time we get Congress to OK funding for building a Dyson's Sphere.

        Let the contract bidding begin!

        • > Let the contract bidding begin!

          I'd say, oh, for an infinite amount of money, to be completed in an infinite amount of time, I can get that done for ya, no prob.

          Half up front, the other half upon successful, on-time completion of project. :)

          I better call my bank and tell them to expect an infinite amount of money to be deposited soon - I think they'll need to do some upgrades first.
          • Sorry, infinite time is not good enough. You see, 4 billions years from now, Sun go poof! Then we just have one big dead-bulb of a Dyson's Sphere.

            Get it done in 1 billion years, you got a deal.

            • Well, okay, but for that kind of schedule, you'll have to pay double. Good, fast, cheap, pick any two, ya know...

              Or, for only 50% more and on the originally proposed schedule, we could fix up your Sun so it'll last longer. The technology level in making a Dyson Sphere is more than that needed to import such amounts of star-fuel from elsewhere.
        • You don't have to get Congress to OK funding (in fact its probably even a bad idea to let them know that you are planning to disassemble planets). All you have to do is design the nanobots to do the heavy lifting tasks (and throw in a fair amount of systems administration engineering to keep them all coordinated) and throw them at the project.

          For more see the Matrioshka Brain Home Page []

    • Actually, by star-lifting [1] one can decrease size of the sun to that of a smaller star. The diminished gravity slows the rate of hydrogen consumption and extends the lifespan to potentially trillions of years. And that doesn't consider what would happen if you gradually fed the sun hydrogen harvested from nearby planets (e.g. Jupiter) or perhaps more distant brown dwarfs or even hydrogen gas clouds. Predictions of a natural course of evolution seriously underestimate the capabilities of advanced techno
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The University of Missouri - Rolla won this year's 3700 km American Solar Challenge. The roughly 154 kg car (235 kg with driver) with 1500 watts of power won by nearly 5 hours - here's the final results. UMR has now won two out of the past three races, finishing second in the last race, to Michigan. Congrats, and good luck to them in the World Solar Challenge!"
  • Funny how... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Funny how the schools that won came from states with little or no sun, and the sunny states didn't place that well.

    Guess people who go to schools with no sun have nothing to do but work all day.
    • Re:Funny how... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Keeper ( 56691 )
      Actually, the biggest challenge the solar racers experience is how to plan/cope with NOT having sun.

      Ie: How hard do you push the car to have enough juice in the batteries to start off at full power the next day?

      A more efficient car helps out somewhat, but good judgement (and luck) plays a much greater role than you'd think. And that good judgement comes from experience/practice.
    • no sun? NO SUN!?!? I'm in Missouri, and in the past month and a half it has been > 95 degree highs, 60+% humidity, and has rained exactly once. Obviously you've never been the Missouri....
  • by wherley ( 42799 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:57PM (#6517462)
    here is the info [] on another solar race from Dell headquarters in Round Rock Texas to the Florida Solar Energy Center [] in Cocoa FL which just ended (after 9 days of racing) today.

    Good job teams []!
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) * <.teamhasnoi. .at.> on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @08:59PM (#6517479) Journal
    Is it allowed to use the actual *heat* of the sun to produce energy, such as in a Stirling engine, or is that now considered 'Reverse Engineering of Sunlight' and outlawed under the DMCA?
  • It seems that the University is not the only one in Missouri working on solar cars. According to this pic [], most every resident is working on one!

    Go solar!

  • Solar? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:19PM (#6517607)
    So I guess that means no 'VTEC' sticker. Too bad.
  • by anonymousman77 ( 584651 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:19PM (#6517608)
    We had no women, but we sure had a sweet-assed solar car. =)
  • by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:20PM (#6517610)
    What is the current progress on this?

    This is what I found: 21.html

    "17.4% Module Conversion Efficiency Industry's Most Efficient --- April 21, 2003"
    "17.3 m2 of area yielding 3.01 kW (4hp)"

    The surface area (hood, roof) of a 2004 Prius is ~10m^2. So that would generate around 2kW with these panels.

    What are the projection for panel efficiency over the next 5-20 years?

    At 50% efficiency you could get 5kW output for a 10m^2 panel. If you drove 1 hour/day and parked in the sun 6 hours/day you could generate an extra 40hp for that hour on the road. As someone mentioned earlier, slap this on a Prius and you should reach 100mpg+ easily.

    Feel free to fix any calculation errors.
    • The theoretical maximum for efficiency of a solsr cell made of one material is 30%. You can make 'em out of two materials and get up to 50%, but I believe the manufacturing of these is impractical or impossible. In other words, you will never get more than 3-4000 kW out of current photovoltaic cell technologies. Not to mention that this is more or less wasted, as it takes on average 10-15 hP to maintain a typical vehicle's speed on the interstate. Vehicles with higher drag coeffecients (Read: SUVs) can
  • by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @09:20PM (#6517612) Homepage
    178 lbs. of driver? somebody get a horse jockey in that cockpit!
  • Hey.. maybe they woulda won by more if they got a smaller (read: lighter) driver.

  • GO MINERS! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dr. Bent ( 533421 ) <> on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @10:22PM (#6517912) Homepage
    I am a UMR grad, and let me tell you, the solar car is the only "sport" my school has.

    Let me give you an idea of what the campus is like. We have the
    • Chemical Engineering Building
    • Mechanical Engineering Building
    • Electrical Engineering Building
    • Civil Engineering Building
    • Nuclear Engineering Building
    • Geology and Geophysics Building
    • Computer Science Building
    • Physics Building
    • Mathematics Building
    • Engineering Management Building

    and one Arts and Sciences building with all those pansy ass "liberal arts" classes in them. (I probably left one's been a while since I was back)

    So needless to say it's a geekfest. I think our football team has won in it's history. The Solar Car challenge is something we dominate in because, well, we can.

    One more time....GO MINERS!
    • (I probably left one's been a while since I was back)

      Only the most important one,

      McNutt Hall []

      home of the School of Mines and Metallurgy. Or is that what you meant by Geology and Geophysics sans Metallurical, Ceramic, Mining, and Petroleum engineering. For those not familiar with the University of Missouri-Rolla, it was originally the Missouri School of Mines [] before being "annexed" into the University of Missouri system.

      My condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Robert E. Moore [].

      • That is what I meant by Geology and Geophysics. Trying to keep it simple for the folks on slashdot.
      • My condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Robert E. Moore.

        Indeed. Never knew Dr. Moore (different department in McNutt), but know he was highly regarded.

  • 176 pound driver? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daniel Quinlan ( 153105 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2003 @10:26PM (#6517936) Homepage
    Maybe I'm too competitive, but I would have made sure a few really skinny/short people were available and eligible to be drivers on my team. I weigh 152 pounds and I'm 6 feet tall and I weigh more than a fair number of the skinny geek set. How hard can it be to find a few 115 pound women (they may need to be part of the engineering team, but that too should be no problem, especially in mechanical/electrical engineering which has less of a male-female imbalance than computer engineering) to do the race-time driving? 176 pounds is a fairly mid-sized guy.

    I tried downloading the rules to check, but the PDF was a blank document. Does anyone know if 176 pounds is just that team's average or are teams with lighter drivers required to use weights to bring them up to 176 pounds (like some horse races)?


    • Dude. You've obviously never been to Rolla. Standing joke: "There's a tone of women students in Rolla. Both of them."

      There's no business school. There's no school for teachers. There's one building that houses psychology, english, speech, and foreign languages. There are like 10 buildings on campus for different engineering and pure-science disciplines. There just aren't a lot of women going into those fields, which is really unfortunate.
      • Actually, I believe the saying is "There's a ton of women in Rolla, there just aren't many of them."
      • There's no business school. There's no school for teachers.

        Actually, you're not quite right.

        There's an Education program: []

        And the School of Managment and Information Systems offers a Business Administration program: []

        And getting back into sciences, there are programs for pre-med, pre-dentistry, and pre-veterinary, as well as pre-nursing, and pre-law.

        The female population is currently listed as 25%. It's been around 23-24% for t
    • Re:176 pound driver? (Score:3, Informative)

      by (startx) ( 37027 )
      you guessed it. 176lbs is the minimum for the rayce. If the driver isn't that heavy, they do have to use wights to bring the wieght up.
  • Proud to be from UMR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RTMFD ( 69819 )
    We've got a good little school here... You can tell it's an engineering school when the solar car team is more popular and well-known than the football team :)

    Anyways, check the domain on my email address. Good job guys!

  • Having also been a student at UMR, and having the pleasure to serve as RA with one of the members of the Solar Car team, I must say congratulations! A job well done. =)

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal