Newest student-built solar car to be unveiled

April 22, 1997

EDITORS: Reporters and the general public are welcome to attend the unveiling ceremony and meet the U-M Solar Car Team, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday,

ANN ARBOR—Wolverine, a new solar-powered car designed and built by University of Michigan students to compete in a national cross-country race this summer, will be introduced to the public in an 11 a.m. ceremony Monday (April 28) in the Media Union on the U-M’s North Campus.

Wolverine will be one of 40 student-designed solar cars competing in Sunrayce 97—a 1,200-mile intercollegiate race from Indianapolis, Ind., to Colorado Springs, Colo., to be held

“Students on the Solar Car Team have spent over 200,000 person-hours during the last 20 months designing, building and testing Wolverine,” said Aaron D. Bragman, the team’s race manager and a senior in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “Our goal is to regain the national Sunrayce title for the U-M and prove we are the world’s best student solar car team.”

In addition to Bragman, 20 U-M engineering students will participate in this year’s Sunrayce competition working as engineers, strategists, operations managers or drivers. Bragman emphasized, however, that it took the combined efforts of about 150 U-M students from the College of Engineering, the Business School and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to create the new solar car.

“These students are extremely dedicated and have learned invaluable lessons that go far beyond what it is possible to learn in a classroom,” said Stephen W. Director, dean of the U-M College of Engineering. “I am pleased that the College of Engineering provides the kind of environment in which projects like these can flourish. On behalf of the entire college, we wish the Solar Car Team all the best in this race and look forward to their success.”

Wolverine is powered by 3,096 Siemens solar cells which cover the top of the car’s 3.3-foot-wide by nearly 20-foot-long body. The solar cells can produce 1,150 watts of power in full sunlight, which is about the equivalent of a portable hair dryer. Wolverine is propelled by an 8.4-kW electric motor which draws power from the car’s solar cells or from its seven lead-acid batteries. Without a driver or batteries, the car weighs just 434 pounds.

Designing and building a car is an expensive undertaking. Part of the value of the solar car project is that students learn how to solicit financial and technical support from a wide variety of corporate sponsors. To date, the Solar Car Team has received donations of materials and equipment valued at $600,000, as well as $200,000 in cash contributions.

“Without the generous support of our corporate sponsors and private donors, we would be unable to participate in Sunrayce,” Bragman said. “Many of our sponsors have supported all four solar car teams. Win or lose, they have been there with us. There is no way we can ever thank them enough.”

Following the unveiling ceremony, the team will have just a few days to road test their new car before the May 2-4 Sunrayce 97 eastern regional qualifiers at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich. Wolverine’s performance in the qualifying heats will determine its starting position in the race.

Major corporate sponsors for the 1997 U-M Solar Car Team include IBM; Ford Motor Company; Ring Technologies of Warren, Mich.; 3M Automotive and AlliedSignal Automotive of Southfield, Mich.; Alro Group of Indianapolis, Ind.; MDSI of Ann Arbor, Mich.; Datron Technology of Farmington Hills, Mich.; Altair Engineering and Mack Industries of Troy, Mich.; and Bitrode Corporation of Fenton, Mo. The team also received financial support from the U-M Business School and the U-M College of Engineering.

Sunrayce 97 is jointly sponsored by the General Motors Corporation, EDS and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Solar Car TeamCollege of Engineering