U’s solar vehicle project wins race in Texas


Centaurus, the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project’s current car, won the 2009 Formula Sun Grand Prix in Cresson, Texas yesterday, completing 487 laps and a total of 974 miles.

The Grand Prix ran from June 3-5, and 17 of the 40 University of Minnesota team members attended.

Centaurus can reach 80 mph, but it averaged a racing speed of 50 mph on the track, crew chief Adem Rudin said.

The team that completes the highest number of laps over the three days won, but speed is not the only important factor.

“It’s all about reliability, the only thing that matters is to keep driving,” said Matt Crane, one of the team’s three drivers at the Formula Sun Grand Prix.

Rudin said many of the cars with the fastest times only spent a few hours on the racetrack, due to overheating or other malfunctions.

Centaurus is the University’s eighth generation solar car. The previous two cars, Borealis II and III, won the Formula Sun Grand Prix as well.

“Of course we wanted to win, but one of our main goals was to train the people who were new to the team, “Crane said.

“Of our 17 person team, we only have three members who have ever raced a car before, everyone else is new,” Rudin said.

The team is also busy working on a new car, which Rudin said is “still on the drawing board.”

Rudin hopes both the team and the new car will be ready for the North American Solar Challenge in June 2010.

The Solar Challenge is the culmination of a two-year work cycle, where teams drive 2,400 miles from Dallas, Texas to Calgary, Alberta.

In the meantime, the team is working 90 hours a week, said team member Adam Shea.

He said the time commitment will shrink to 30 hours a week after school starts.

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