photo services
news staff
Marketing & Design
Tips for faculty
Social Networks
PHONE: (734)764-7260
FAX: (734) 764-7084

Dec. 17, 2004


U-M Team Momentum to start 'rayce' at Auto Show
M-Pulse at 2003 Auto Show

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan Team Momentum will officially reveal its new solar car at Detroit's North American Auto Show in January, with its space-age improvements in the body design and mechanical equipment.

Partly because of these improvements, U-M hopes to win the North American Solar Challenge "rayce" (combination of 'race' and sun 'rays'), which begins in Austin, Texas, in July and ends in Calgary, Alberta, 10 days later. A good showing will qualify the team for the World Solar Challenge, a race across Australia in September.

That's a tall order for the former championship team that, during a heartbreaking equipment failure in 2003, didn't qualify to race. But team director Michael Brackney is confident that vigorous team development, combined with design improvements in this year's new car will give the team the winning edge.  

It's important to note that every race cycle, the Michigan team builds an entirely new car; it does not use the previous year's vehicle.

"If everything lines up over the next year as we're wanting it to, we have a very good change of being competitive in the World Solar Challenge and possibly winning," Brackney said.

Here are a few of the new car's design elements that the team hopes will propel the car across the finish line before its competitors:  

• Real-time operating system—The RTOS is the same architecture used in defense department helicopters, and indeed, a defense contractor donated it to the team. It combines a lot of functions from cruise control to brake light activation in one system. The last U-M solar car had a more distributed network.

• LCD—The idea isn't new, but the way it's being used, in tandem with the RTOS, is. In the previous car, the driver had two separate displays, one display strictly for the rearview camera system and another for vehicle information (speed, battery voltage, etc). This year's car features a combined display in a color LCD that gives the video feed and, in the lower corner, provides the speed, saving driver effort and vehicle power.

• Aerodynamics—Design choices will give the car an aerodynamic advantage. Fairings are covers that protect the wheels, and the team designed thin, windowed fairings which open where the wheel turns in to allow for a wider turning radius. The fairings also open during braking to cool the brakes.

The car has also gone from four to three wheels because studies show that energy lost due to aerodynamic drag at highway speeds is about 70 percent of total energy loss.

The Michigan Solar Car team is the winningest college team in history, but has had heartbreaks as well. In 2001, U-M became the only college team to win the Solar Car Challenge three times, but steering problems led to disqualification in 2003.

With a core group of about 40 students and a supporting group of another 100 team members, the Michigan Solar Car Team works year round to develop a new vehicle on a two-year project cycle. With over a decade of tradition, the Michigan Solar Car Team has been one of the most exciting and involved student projects at U-M.

The auto show is open to the public Jan. 15-Jan. 23, 2005.

"The U-M College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. Michigan Engineering boasts one of the largest research budgets of any public university, at $135 million for 2004. Michigan Engineering has 11 departments and two NSF Engineering Research Centers. Within those departments and centers, there is a special emphasis on research in three emerging industries: Nanotechnology and integrated microsystems; cellular and molecular biotechnology; and information technology. The College is seeking to raise $110 million for capital building projects and program support in these areas to further research discovery. The CoE's goal is to advance academic scholarship and market cutting edge research to improve public heath and well-being.

For more information visit:


Contact: Laura Bailey
Phone: (734) 647-1848 or (734) 647-7087