Weather dampens solar car’s performance, not Michigan’s spirits

June 30, 1999

ORLANDO, Fla.—Under cloudy skies, the 20 University of Michigan students who have spent more than a year building the Maize Blaze solar car proudly showed off their vehicle Wednesday and Thursday to curious visitors at Walt Disney World.
In the fifth running of the solar car race, which was marred by almost constant rain, the U-M car finished 17th out of 29 cars, and spent much of its time riding the 1,300 mile route on its support trailer rather than under its own power. The University of Missouri at Rolla won the race with an average speed of only 25 miles per hour. They were 47 minutes ahead of Queens University of Ontario, and a full 23 hours ahead of Michigan, which took substantial time penalties for trailering the car.
“Some of the new people took it really hard,” said team spokesman Jose Alvarez, a recent graduate in industrial and operations engineering. “But the veterans are already looking forward to Australia.”
Indeed, if enough funding from corporate and individual sponsors can be rounded up in coming months, the team intends to race in the World Solar Challenge across Australia in November.
“We’ve proven we have a good car that can go,” Alvarez said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out who can support us.” The constant rainy weather caused some unexpected problems with the car’s solar collecting array of more than a thousand glass and silicon cells. Those difficulties will be analyzed when the team returns to Ann Arbor this weekend, and if there is enough funding, the array would be entirely replaced by more efficient solar cells for the Australian race, Alvarez said.

Maize Blazesolar car raceindustrial and operations engineeringWorld Solar Challenge