Solectria Lightspeed Wins American Tour De

Nancy Hazard

Northeast Solar Energy Association's (NESEA) 1990 American Tour de Sol, the American Solar Car Championship, was a great success. There were 15 entries from across the country, each unique, pushing solar electric vehicle technology to the limits. This second annual five day event was held from May 23 to 27, 1990. It involved 234 miles of travel and fourteen solar car exhibits from Montpelier, Vermont to Boston, Massachusetts. Besides numerous vehicles from colleges, universities, and one high school, the event attracted 3 conventional-looking solar production prototypes which were enthusiastically received by spectators and the press and made competition very stiff. Their designers hope to have them in production by the end of the year.

Solectria's Solar Racing Team of Arlington, MA was the clear winner of the commuter category, as Anita Rajan drove the Solectria Lightspeed, a sleek two seater sports car, across the finish line. The car and team has been sent to compete in the Tour de Sol world championship in Switzerland. Travel has been provided by Lufthansa German Airlines. Solectria's Sunrise, a four seat vehicle, finished only a few minutes behind, followed by Tufts University in third place. Fourth, fifth and sixth places were claimed by Delta College, Michigan's S-CAR-GO, the Sundriver Model D from

Tennessee & New Hampshire Technical Institute's Sungo, respectively.

In the Tour de Sol racing category, the MIT Solectria 5 was driven to victory by James Worden, veteran solarmobile driver and principle of Solectria Inc. He was followed by the Dartmouth College's Sunvox II, the New Hampshire Technical Institute Suntech II, Conval High School's Sol Survivor, Champlain College's Vermont Sunrunner, and the University of Lowell's Sun Blazer.

The University of California at Irvine, the sole entry in the Cross Continental Category was declared the winner of that category, while the open category attracted two interesting entries, an electrified mountain bike entered by team Rosebud from Barre, Vermont, and a hybrid solar electric/gasoline car by Solar Car Corp. of Melbourne, Florida.

Solar Car Corp's Car was beautifully crafted using a 1984 Honda Civic body, Astro Power solar cells, a DC motor, and a small gasoline driven motor with a half gallon fuel tank. the gasoline motor is used to extend the range of the car, and can either run a generator to charge the batteries or be mechanically coupled to the drive train for highway cruising. Doug Cobb, principle of Solar Car Corp., has plans to produce this car by the end of the year, and to develop several other smaller models with increased driving ranges. If the car he brought this year is any indication, he will be a very strong contender in the 1991 American Tour de Sol. Solectria's Lightspeed, on the other hand, has an innovative AC Synchronous motor, which was jointly designed and built by James Worden of Solectria, and Uniq Mobility, Inc. The power (25 Horsepower peak), simplicity, light weight and efficiency of Solectria's motors are a significant technological advance. Solectria's cars can be ordered from Solectria Inc of Arlington, MA. Another car of note was the New Hampshire Technical Institute's "Sungo", a converted Yugo. Conversions have the obvious advantage of starting with a safe, acceptable body, suspension, brakes and wheels. In this case a 3 phase industrial AC induction motor was used. Although last in the commuter standings, the Sungo was recognized as an outstanding effort by race director, Dr. Robert Wills.

The Northeast Solar Energy Association (NESEA) of Greenfield, MA organized the race to foster the development and use of solar electric vehicles for everyday use. Solar/electric vehicles have photovoltaic panels, batteries and electric motors instead of gasoline engines. "They are quiet, can travel up to 70 miles per day at normal road speeds, and are totally pollution free when running, and so are a real answer to our city air pollution problems." said Nancy Hazard, race co-director.

The American Tour de Sol demonstrates that solar electric vehicles are a viable transportation option today. Solarmobiles could also have a significant impact in reducing acid rain and global warming by eliminating pollution from automobile exhausts, which are the main contributors to these environmental problems. (see attached addendum)

The limiting factors in solar electric vehicle design are the cost of photovoltaic panels and the energy density of batteries. Photovoltaic panels,which convert sunlight directly into electricity, have become significantly cheaper and more efficient but government funding for research has dropped steadily since the 1980's. "It is time to renew our support for photovoltaic and battery research and invest in our own and the world's future" said race co-director Dr. Robert Wills. While esoteric battery technologies such as solid lithium, molten sulphur and zinc-air show promise, most vehicles in the American Tour de Sol used conventional lead acid batteries.

The American Tour de Sol is sponsored by Lufthansa German Airlines, New England Electric System, and US Department of Energy as well as many other people and organizations who are concerned about the environment.

NESEA plans to run next year's race through southern New England, from Albany NY, to Hartford CT, Providence RI and Boston MA. For more information, contact NESEA at 23 Ames St., Greenfield MA, 01301 (413) 774-6051

1990 American Tour de Sol Results

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