July 25, 2001

M-Pulse races to victory at the American Solar Challenge

Ann Arbor, Michigan---The University of Michigan College of Engineering's solar car M-Pulse sped to a first-place finish in the American Solar Challenge today. The 2,300-mile race along historic Route 66, which started on July 15th in Chicago, Illinois and ended in Claremont, California, is the premier competition of solar-powered cars in the United States. M-Pulse crossed the finish line at 11:37 am PDT, making it the winner with a total time of 56 hours, 10 minutes and 46 seconds—one hour and 20 minutes faster than the second-place team and defending champions, the University of Missouri-Rolla. The taste of victory is especially sweet for the U-M team since a serious accident just one month ago left M-Pulse debilitated and without much hope of even competing in the American Solar Challenge.

A trial run along the race route near Oklahoma City on June 18, 2001 ended in disaster when M-Pulse's attempts to avoid a series of potholes launched the vehicle into a ditch. No one was injured, but the crash left many of the car's sophisticated components severely damaged. The following 17 days were consumed by a frenzied attempt to rebuild M-Pulse, which originally took a year and a half to construct. This effort included the rebuild or repair of the car's chassis, lower and upper surfaces, mechanical components and solar array. "It's hard to believe this fantastic finish considering the position we were in just four weeks ago," explained Team Captain Nader Shwayhat. "Through the amazing efforts of this team—including frantic 24-hour work schedules, emergency calls to sponsors, and endless rounds of last-minute fixes—we were able to restore M-Pulse to its original racing condition."

The team's faculty advisors, Professors Brian Gilchrist and Ken Kohrs, initially skeptical of the team's ability to reconstruct the car in time to qualify for the Solar Challenge, spoke in glowing terms about the team's accomplishments. "This win is a testament to the quality of this team. They have a rare combination of motivation, teamwork skills, willingness to accept personal sacrifice, and a real can-do attitude," said Gilchrist. Kohrs explained that the team has behaved like a microcosm of automotive development and vehicle center activities—taking on an array of tasks including design, construction, logistics and fundraising, all of which had to be attended to within a highly condensed time frame.

M-Pulse became one of the leaders in the American Solar Challenge shortly after its start on July 15th. The team consistently raced near the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit, though a string of brief stops due to technical and mechanical complications kept M-Pulse in second place behind the car from the University of Missouri-Rolla for the first four days. By the end of day five, however, U-M was racing approximately 30 minutes ahead of Missouri-Rolla—a lead that was lengthened to 1 hour and 20 minutes by the time the team reached the final checkpoint in Barstow, California. The 100-mile final sprint from Barstow to Claremont began with a staged start of all 28 competitors at 9 am today, and the exciting conclusion came this morning when M-Pulse crossed the finish line.

The U-M team was greeted by a crowd of family, friends and supporters, including Stephen W. Director, Dean of the College of Engineering. "The College of Engineering is extremely proud of this team's accomplishments, said Director. "The U-M team's victory is an example of what feats can be achieved with a blend of outstanding engineering capabilities, energy efficiency strategies, business management skills and enthusiastic teamwork."

This is the third victory for the U-M in this national solar car competition, which has taken place a total of six times, and its first victory since 1993. With its recaptured leadership position, the team plans to take on international competitors at the World Solar Challenge in Australia in November 2001.

Twenty-eight cars competed in the race that began in Chicago on July 15 and finished today in Claremont. The American Solar Challenge is a biannual event in which participants build and race cars that rely solely on the sun as a fuel source.

About the University of Michigan College of Engineering
The University of Michigan College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the world. The College is comprised of 11 academic departments: aerospace engineering; atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences; biomedical engineering; chemical engineering; civil and environmental engineering; electrical engineering and computer science; industrial and operations engineering; materials science and engineering; mechanical engineering; naval architecture and marine engineering; and nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. Each year the college enrolls over 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students and grants about 1,000 undergraduate degrees and 600 masters and doctoral degrees. To learn more, please visit our web site at www.engin.umich.edu.

Contact: Neal Lao, U-M College of Engineering
Phone: (734) 647-7087

Contact: Joy Portella, RFBinder Partners
Phone: (212) 593-5801
Cell: (917) 676-6492