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Running on the sun

Posted by: Mark Bilek

Infinium wins the 2010 American Solar ChallengeIf you happened to be in Naperville this past June you might have noticed some unusual, and quiet, vehicles parading through the city streets. That's because the American Solar Challenge wrapped up its 1100-mile race there this June 26. The winner was the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. Pacing the field by more than two hours, it marked the third consecutive time the UofM team won the American Solar Challenge.

The American Solar Challenge is a competition to design, build, and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country time/distance rally event. Hosted by the Innovators Educational Foundation, the 1100-mile route started in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and combined stops in Topeka, Kansas, Jefferson City, Missouri, and Normal, Illinois. At times the route traced old Route 66.

Sixteen teams set out from Broken Arrow on June 20. Only 13 made it to the end, led by the UofM entry, Infinium, which crossed the line in Naperville, Illinois, at about 2 p.m. Saturday June 26 with a winning time of 28 hours, 14 minutes and 55 seconds.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," engineering student Steve Durbin, the team's race manager, said. "This race means a lot to us because we're defending our home territory. It's great to see that all of our hard work paid off."

Though commuter cars powered by the sun's energy are a ways off, Infinium topped 100 mph in testing and had no trouble maintaining the legal speed limit during the race. Over the course of the race it averaged 40 mph.

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project team placed second with an elapsed time of 30 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds in Centaurus. The team also won the sportsmanship award and electrical excellence award for the design of its electrical system.

Third place went to Germany's Bochum University of Applied Sciences, which may have the most elegant solar race car ever. SolarWorld No. 1 finished the race in 30 hours, 34 minutes and 50 seconds.

Read more about Infinium's journey here.

Read more about the American Solar Challenger here.

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