Facebook Twitter

SOLAR CARS BRING RAYS OF HOPE TO INNOVATIVE MINDS

SHARE SOLAR CARS BRING RAYS OF HOPE TO INNOVATIVE MINDS

The cars in this race whirred across the finish line in the Motor City with faint whines and hums, not booming exhausts and smoking tires.

They were solar-powered, and the 11-day Florida-to-Detroit race they completed Thursday gave a big boost to the technology that harnesses the sun's energy, organizers and participants said."This race has definitely raised awareness of engineering and science," said Bill Kaliardos, a member of the University of Michigan's Sunrunner team, which won the 1,641-mile race. "This is about as good as engineering can get."

"What these young people have learned will contribute to the future technological developments in our country," said Robert C. Stempel, president of General Motors Corp. The company sponsored the GM Sunrayce USA along with the U.S. Energy Department and the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Sunlight glinted off the panels and heated the solar cells of the lightweight, low-slung cars as they zipped across the race's last leg.

The cars - just over 3 feet high but 19 feet long and 6.6 feet across - are designed to expose the maximum area of solar cells to the sun and run on minimum power. In Sunrunner's case, that's 1.5 horsepower.

The 575-pound Sunrunner finished in 72 hours, 50 minutes and 47 seconds, averaging 22.5 mph.

The cars started July 9 at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and traveled over secondary roads in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

GM is sending the top three finishers to Australia's World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile race across the Australian outback from Darwin to Adelaide. It starts Nov. 11.

Western Washington University's Viking XX finished second and the University of Maryland's Pride of Maryland was third.

Viking XX was one of just three two-passenger vehicles in the race.

"It's very radical," said Bill Lingenfelter, 23, an industrial technology student and the Viking XX team captain.

Student engineer-racers said they hope to change the face of the auto industry - and further their own careers.