U solar car team takes second in 1,100 mile race

The team also won awards for sportsmanship and their electronics.

The University of Minnesota's 2010 solar vehicle was built entirely by students. It weighs 180 kilograms and can reach speeds up to 80 mph.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

The University of Minnesota’s 2010 solar vehicle was built entirely by students. It weighs 180 kilograms and can reach speeds up to 80 mph.

Kyle Potter

A car sits parked in a garage strewn with tools and boxes of supplies. The webcam continues to refresh, but the scene does not change.
The garage is not bustling with workers as it was just a month ago, but the team and its car deserve a rest.

After seven days and 1,100 miles of driving, the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project team returned home Sunday as runner-up in the American Solar Challenge.

The team added its trophy to a vast shelf of past successes, including two other ASC second-place finishes.

Far from being upset with finishing behind the perennial favorites from the University of Michigan, project manager Alan Jacobs said he and his teammates have a lot to be proud of.

âÄúA brand new car and we got second overall,âÄù Jacobs said of Centaurus II, the solar car SVP built over the past year. âÄúItâÄôs quite an accomplishment for us.âÄù

Four team members rotated driving the car from Tulsa, Okla., to Chicago in a timed race against 12 other teams, including one from Germany and another from Taiwan.

Aside from a blown tire and an overheated battery âÄî a consequence of driving in scorching weather that frequently scratched 100  degrees F âÄî Jacobs said the race went well.

SVP beat German team Hochschule Bochum  by just seven minutes âÄî a blink of an eye in the world of cross-country racing.

âÄúIt was a nail biter all the way through,âÄù Jacobs said.

For their work off the road, the team was given a sportsmanship award and an award for the electronics used in its car.

Though the University has decided not to fund SVP next year, Jacobs said he has no doubt he and his team will be back on the race circuit next year. Too many people care enough about the project for it to fall by the wayside, he said.

For now, Jacobs and the rest of the team have to figure out how to spend their summer. Other than showing the car off at a Minnesota State Fair exhibit, the team has little planned.

âÄúWe actually have weekends back,âÄù Jacobs said. âÄúWe wonâÄôt know what to do with our spare time.âÄù