University of Michigan's Quantum Solar Racer. Image: Evan Doughety

University of Michigan's Quantum Solar Racer. Image: Evan Doughety

The World Solar Challenge race is a little over three months away, so if you’re the team from the University of Michigan, how do you prepare?

You could spend late nights in the wind tunnel, optimizing airflow and further reducing drag. You could run tests on all the solar panels to ensure that their output is optimized, and you could run computer models on any of your car’s systems to ensure maximum performance.

Races aren’t won in a wind tunnel, or in a computer lab, and there’s no substitute for racking up miles on a race car, regardless of what powers it.   The University of Michigan team knows this, so they’re testing their Quantum racer on a four-day, 1,000 mile lap of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

The route includes planned stops in five cites, to fix problems that arise en route and to charge the array. The team will avoid multi-lane highways, but still expects to average 40 to 50 miles per hour along the route.

The loop is great practice for the upcoming World Solar Challenge, and as project manager Rachel Kramer explains, “We’ll be on the open roads, navigating and dealing with other traffic while making real-time race strategy decisions.”

The U of M effort is well funded, and the team has over 300 sponsors, including such big names as AT&T, Ford and General Motors. The solar car team will be providing regular updates on their lap of Michigan, and you can follow along  at the U of M’s solar car blog.

[The Detroit News]