In 1987, General Motors won the first World Solar Challenge in Australia. Its record-setting car, Sunraycer, finished the race more than two days ahead (600+ miles) of its closest competitor. Today, Sunraycer continues to take center stage, at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Now, it lend's its name to the largest U.S. competition for solar-powered vehicles - Sunrayce.
In July 1990, 32 teams of some of North America's brightest college students took to the road in solar-powered vehicles they had built during the previous year and a half. The GM Sunrayce USA route covered more than 1,800 miles, from Florida to Michigan. Three of the top finishers won a trip to Australia in November to compete in the 1990 world solar challenge.
Sunraycer charging her batteries - this is allowed
A solar car is necessarily an electric car, because it runs on electricity generated by solar heat. The first electrical carriage was built and run in 1838 in Edinburgh, by one Robert Davidson, and a few years later an American named M.B.Farmer was running one. In fact, the first auto to break the 100 km/h 'barrier' was an electrically-driven torpedo-shaped LaJamais Contente (The Never Content) which Belgian Camille Jenatzy pushed to a new world land speed record of 105.904 km/h (65.79 mph) on April 29, 1899. But the internal combustion engine was starting to demonstrate a superiority that lasts until this day, as innovative technology continues to refine this noble concept.
Then, 88 years later, on October 31, 1987, the solar-charged, electric-powered General Motors Sunraycer sprinted at 113 km/h (70.2 mph) on the highway leading south from the far north Australian city of Darwin. what it was doing Down Under is the story of this book.
It is the story of a highly diverse group of people brought together by the common urge to push outwards the envelope of known technology. there had been solar car races before. The first was the 1985 Tour de Sol in Switzerland, over 229 miles, then the second in 1986, over 237 miles. But the Australian race was 1950 miles across the world's oldest continent. While Daimler-Benz had built its Solarmobile to win the first Swiss race, the technology used would be outmoded instantly by what was planned by the General Motors group of scientists, technicians, designers, engineers and racers for the beautiful jewel called Sunraycer.
This book is the story of that Great Adventure, an operation that was planned an executed with dazzling swiftness inside an excrutiatingly-tight timetable, an incredible achievement in itself within the framework of so vast a business organization.
It is the story of a race that was planned and won by an operation that in its intensity of purpose and meticulousness of detail rivaled that of a NASA space mission. And there were more than a few elements of aerospace in what happened across that huge continent. That is why in this book we refer to the GM team members as 'astronauts of the sun'. This is their story, and the story of an amazing automobile.
General Motors - Sunraycer
The Sunraycer will stand always as a symbol that America in general, and General Motors in particular, is still in the forefront of innovative and creative thinking. The country that put the world on wheels hasn't forgotten how to lead.
Sunraycer is a product of the Australian-based Chevron Publishing Group. The country's largest automotive and motor racing book and magazine publisher, the group also produces books on other subjects. It has set new standards of quality and excellence in Australian books, and as such, was a worthy partner for the GM team in this endeavor.
AFTER THE SUNRAYCER - GM's EV1
After GM's Sunraycer won the Australian race - it wasn't even a close race, the Sunraycer crossed the finish line 2½ days before the second place racer. This car heavily inspired the EV1 that is currently available. The Impact was debuted ant the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show. This was the first prototype for the EV1. Twelve prototypes and 23 new patents later, the first EV1 rolled of the assembly line at the Lansing Craft Centre in November of 1996. The name Impact was dropped, probably because the term doesn't sound safe. The car featured a 0.19 drag coefficient making it one of the slickest cars ever. The car can even out run the Mazda Miata, no small feat considering that electric cars are thought of as slow. In a twist of irony, the EV1 sports the 100-year-old UL mark. Underwriters Laboratories is the most widely accepted certification for electronic gear. Both the charging system and car carry the mark. Take a careful look at the EV1 on this page, it is the wave of the future.
is by no means the first electric car on the U.S. mainland, it is however
one of the best conceived yet. Back at the last turn of the century,
electricity powered more "horseless carriages" than gasoline. As
was mentioned on the Oldsmobile page, had a fire not destroyed Ransom Olds
plant that produced electric cars, we might all be driving electric
vehicles today. Instead only a select few drive EV1's in some cities in
Arizona and California. Back in those early years electric cars were
popular because they didn't have to be hand cranked. They were also quiet
and didn't smell bad. These were big benefits in those days. However
history saw to it that the internal combustion engine won out and that is
what more than 99.999999% of the population drive. GM has toyed with
electric cars for the last few decades on and off. When the gas crisis hit
the U.S. in the early seventies and the emission controls started to
become a hot topic is when GM started to carefully look at electric cars.
This was in addition to other form of propulsion. However it was decided
that the technology was to new to be efficient enough for public
consumption. So the downsizing projects were under way to make the gas
powered cars lighter and more efficient. This worked well but did not
solve all of the problems, so research continued on for electric vehicles.
Congratulations to the team for a job well done and for advancing the cause of clean, sustainable, electric transportation.
For 2007, the Texas A&M solar car team are building a car called 'Night Rider.'
NIGHT RIDER CONTACTS:
MacNabb (Team Manager)
A&M Solar Motorsports Team
Pollock (Team Advisor)
Corps of Cadets
Giving to A&M
SOLAR CAR EVENTS
During these competitions, students learn about solar panels, electric motors, electronics, vehicle chassis, bodywork, aerodynamics, suspension, batteries and how to solve practical problems during the design process, while working as a team. It's demanding stuff and more fun that laying in bed watching TV, where individuals may seek inspiration, but achieve very little.
A taste for adventure
Solar Cola - a healthier alternative
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