Solar car Quantum to tour Michigan in the ultimate road test

July 13, 2011
The U-M Solar Car Team is about to take off on a 1,000-mile mock race across the state. Credit: Evan Dougherty

The national champion solar car team will soon put its 2011 car and crew to the toughest test before the October World Solar Challenge. On Saturday, the University of Michigan team will embark on a 1,000-mile, four-day "mock race" that will ring the state's Lower Peninsula.

The Quantum, which is street legal, will cruise along mostly two-lane roads at an expected average of 40-50 mph (past Michigan solar cars can break 100 mph, but the team doesn't test for speed until after the World Solar Challenge). Five stops in St. Joseph, Ludington, Traverse City, Mackinaw City and Tawas City will simulate the mandatory control stops along the Australian race route. At these check points, the team will rest, change drivers and charge up. For details about the dates and times the team will be at each stop, check the website at .

"Mock race is a major milestone for us," said Rachel Kramer, project manager and senior neuroscience student. "We'll be on the open roads navigating and dealing with other traffic while making real-time race strategy decisions."

You can follow along online. Michigan Engineering will travel with the team, posting videos and updates on and , as well as on Tumblr at . The team will also blog, tweet and post videos at

Beyond practice, the trip will give the team a chance to show Quantum off across the state that many of its biggest fans and supporters call home. The team has more than 300 sponsors. Half are in the auto manufacturing sector and the majority of those are Michigan companies.

"Quantum is a breakthrough car for the U-M team and we couldn't have built it without our sponsors," said Chris Hilger, business manager and junior chemical . "This year we worked with the automotive base around us in unprecedented ways. No team has collaborated with industry on the level that we have."

Whereas in 2009, Michigan-based engineering firm Roush painted the car and donated some machining time and materials, this year the students built Quantum's carbon fiber chassis and body right at Roush's office, getting advice from professional engineers as they worked.

"With their help, we took a process that used to take a month and finished it in a week, and we ended up with a better product," Hilger said.

The team worked with the Detroit office of British engineering firm Ricardo to measure the true forces the car experiences on the road. With this new knowledge, the students were able to design a streamlined car that's 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The team ran aerodynamics tests in GE Jacobs' wind tunnel. Atlas Tool Inc. manufactured the wheels.

Explore further: National champion solar car team introduces 2011's Quantum (w/ video)

Related Stories

Mirror technology propels 2007 U-M Solar Car team

October 15, 2007

Mirrors hold the hopes of the 2007 University of Michigan Solar Car Team. The storied student organization with more than 100 members has a potentially game-changing car design for the upcoming Panasonic World Solar Challenge, ...

Six-time champions win American Solar Challenge

June 28, 2010

( -- Finishing more than two hours ahead of its nearest competitor, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team has won the American Solar Challenge for a third consecutive North American title.

Sleek new MIT solar car heads to the races

February 25, 2009

MIT's Solar Electric Vehicle Team, the oldest such student team in the country, has just finished construction of its latest high-tech car and will be unveiling it to the public this Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. in Lobby 13.

Japanese solar car leads race Down Under

October 26, 2009

Japan's Tokai Challenger was on Monday leading a solar car race across the harsh Australian Outback, having covered about half of the 3,000 kilometre (1,860 mile) desert course, officials said.

Recommended for you

Volvo to supply Uber with self-driving cars (Update)

November 20, 2017

Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars said Monday it has signed an agreement to supply "tens of thousands" of self-driving cars to Uber, as the ride-sharing company battles a number of different controversies.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.