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It all started with a phone call last August. The man at the other end of the line was Rod Alberts, BS Business Administration '81, Executive Director, NAIAS and Executive Vice President, Detroit Auto Dealers Association. He wondered if the MU SunTiger Race Team would like to exhibit their newest car at the 2003 NAIAS, one of the premier automotive shows in the world. With the new car already designed and in production, the decision was made by the team to debut the new car at NAIAS which runs from January 5-19 at the Cobo Exhibition and Conference Center in Detroit, Mich.

With finals nearly over, the team is working at a feverish pace to complete the car and all of the arrangements for the exhibition in Detroit. Several team members are working overtime taking only two days off for Christmas during the winter break. They begin their 12-hour drive to Detroit on January 2. The multi-vehicle caravan will include one of the college's vans with exhibit items, a truck and trailer with the solar car and parts, and cars the students will use while in the Motor City. But there is much to do before January 2 arrives.

Nathan Miller, team co-manager, said, "We are working on welding a-arm mounts, bending roll bars and shock bars, drilling and bolting, fixing the uprights, and determining a way to attach the top shell temporarily for the show." In addition, the team will build a platform on which to exhibit the car, and other structures. The Detroit show began in 1907 and is one of the longest running auto shows in the U.S. and a premier show among the international auto show circuit.

Exhibiting at NAIAS is the impetus for the team to complete the car. However, fundraising and production of the new car will continue when the team returns days before Winter semester begins. SunTiger V will compete in the 2003 American Solar Challenge July 13-23. In this ten day competition, worldwide solar car competitors will convene at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and race 2,300 miles to Claremont, Calif. So, even after the show closes, there is much to be done to fundraise the remaining $50,000.00 for the spacecraft grade solar array, a new motor, other car parts and expenses that the team will incur during the 2003 American Solar Challenge.

SunTiger and the SunTiger Race Team The University of Missouri-Columbia College of Engineering Solar Car project began in 1991 when three students drafted and submitted a proposal for entry into the U.S. Department of Energy/General Motors solar car competition known as Sunrayce '93. The SunTiger Race Team has been involved in solar car competitions ever since. Today, the team numbers more than 50 members from a broad base of disciplines and interests.

The SunTiger Race Team is a student group dedicated to developing and racing highly efficient solar vehicles. Its goal is to design and build next generation solar vehicles and become the world's best solar car team. The SunTiger project encourages technical collaboration among many fields of study at the University of Missouri including engineering, business and art. The team attracts highly capable students interested in developing technology of the future. The 2002-2003 team co-managers are Nathan Miller, a senior in Mechanical Engineering, and Jeff Mueller, a senior in Electrical Engineering. Richard Whelove, an instructor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, is the faculty advisor.

The first solar powered car at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus was SunTiger I. Starting from scratch, the first team faced many challenges. The final product had to be aerodynamic, light and capable of generating enough solar energy to power the car. The car weighed 1,113 pounds (with driver) and raced at Sunrayce '93 placing 19th in a field of 37 collegiate teams.

Today's car has more than eight square meters of solar cells on its upper surface. These cells generate half the energy used by a hairdryer yet it is enough power to propel SunTiger at highway speeds. Solar cells turn sunlight into electricity that is either used immediately by the motor or stored in batteries for later use. The car is designed to make the most of the limited energy produced by the solar cells, and the team develops complex strategies to manage the energy for ten days of racing in the biennial American Solar Challenge (ASC).

Competitions The ASC is the longest solar car race in the world, 2300 miles in 10 days. Teams from around the world race from Chicago to Claremont, Calif. along historic Route 66 and face varied climates, topography and road conditions. Equally vigorous and demanding is the Formula Sun Grand Prix. This is an annual closed-track race in Topeka, Kan. It serves as a pre-qualifier to the American Solar Challenge. And, the World Solar Challenge is the premier solar car race that takes competitors through the Outback from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia. Teams from around the world are challenged to race in one of the harshest landscapes on earth. These are the major world-class events for solar car competitors.

In 2001, MU's SunTigerIV placed 11th in a field of 35 teams in the American Solar Challenge. In 2003 the team will again participate in this race. The event begins July 13 at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and ends on July 23 on Yale Avenue in Claremont, Calif. The course will take new twists and turns and remains the longest solar race in the world. Currently more than 40 teams are signed-up to race but fewer will make it through mandatory scrutineering.a rigorous process which qualifies cars and assures that they are mechanically sound and can endure the long race. fewer than those qualified will actually complete the race.

SunTigerV Technical Specifications

  • Array output: 1300 to 1400 watts

  • Weight: 600 lbs. (with driver)

  • Top speed: 72 mph

  • Battery pack: 648 lithium ion cells

  • Chassis: Semi-monocoque carbon fiber

  • Array: 3000 space-grade Gallium Arsenide cells

  • Tires: Bridgestone 114-psi electric car tires

  • Motor: New Generations axial flux wheel motor

  • Harness: 5-point Simpson racing harness

  • Suspension: Double A-Arm

  • Estimated total car cost: $180,000

Tax Deductible Contributions

The SunTiger Race Team fundraises to pay for each car, all of their expenses, promotional materials, competition fees, uniforms and any other expenses. Donations are always welcome and can be made to:

SunTiger Solar Project
Room 1, Engineering Building West
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, MO 65201

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