This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 26, 2006

Solar-Powered Vehicles Take to the Racetrack and the Water

Photo of a small boxy vehicle, with a large array of solar panels forming its roof, driving on a racetrack.

The Sundancer speeds along the track at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Credit: Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge

A high school team from Houston, Mississippi, has claimed its sixth consecutive win at the Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge, an annual solar race for high schools hosted by The Winston School in Dallas, Texas. In odd-numbered years, the race heads onto the open road, but this year it was confined to the Texas Motor Speedway, where the Sundancer team from the Houston Vocational Center drew on its large array of Schott solar cells to successfully defend its title. But despite competing in the open division, which allows the use of advanced technology in the vehicle, Sundancer faced its closest competition from Saint Thomas Academy, which entered a car in the classic division. While the online race results show Sundancer completing 392 laps with an average speed of 29.5 miles per hour, the team from Saint Thomas Academy came pretty close, completing 375 laps with an average speed of 29.0 miles per hour. See the Schott press release, the Dell-Winston Solar Car Challenge Web site, and the online race results.

Meanwhile, the Technical University of Delft has won the first-ever Frisian Nuon Solar Challenge, a six-day solar boat race along canals and lakes in Friesland, a northern province in the Netherlands. The 137-mile race followed the route of the Eleven City Tour, typically taken on skates in the winter. See the Frisian Nuon Solar Challenge Web site.

While solar-powered vehicles are proving their mettle, a vehicle that might be considered "biomass-powered" set a world record on July 20th. On his second attempt in as many years, Greg Kolodziejzyk successfully set the world record for traveling the farthest in 24 hours in a human-powered vehicle. Mr. Kolodziejzyk pedaled for 24 hours straight on a racetrack in Eureka, California, traveling 650.5 miles at an average speed of 27.1 miles per hour. He also set a record for traveling 1000 kilometers in the fastest time. As noted by SolidWorks Corporation, the feat was due in part to a highly aerodynamic, lightweight carbon-fiber shell, designed using the company's software. The shell housed a recumbent bicycle to yield a vehicle with a top speed of more than 60 miles per hour. Of course, it also helped that Mr. Kolodziejzyk is an Ironman triathlete. See the SolidWorks press release and the announcement of the record and description of the effort on Mr. Kolodziejzyk's Web site.