> Tuesday August 10th at 11:45 AM
> Nathan Hall-Snyder            
>                                                               *
> Stanford Solar Car Project

> Founded in 1989, the Stanford Solar Car Project is an entirely student-run,
> non-profit organization fueled by its members’ passion for environmentally
> sustainable technology. Since its founding, the Project has built 9
> generations of solar cars ranging from the SunSurfer to the most recent
> car, the Apogee. The Project provides a unique opportunity for Stanford
> students to gain valuable hands-on engineering and business experience
> while raising community awareness of clean energy vehicles.

> Earlier this summer, the car and its team completed the 2010 American
> Solar Challenge, a competition to design, build and race solar-powered
> cars in a four-stage cross-continental race from Oklahoma to Illinois,
> winning the final stage and coming in 4th overall.  Apogee was built
> with a fairly aggressive stance towards innovation and includes more
> homemade electronics and more refined mechanical systems than any
> previous Stanford car.

> Nathan Hall-Snyder, the current Apogee team lead and mechanical wizard,
> will describe what technologies go into a solar car, the major design
> challenges of high-efficiency vehicles, and how an automotive industry
> open to the potential of solar power could help our ailing planet in
> the future.

Nathan began by showing us pictures of a variety of solar race cars from history. It's been 20 years since the first Solar car race, so there has been quite a bit of evolution in the designs. For one thing, the early cars had a beetle shaped quality, whereas the modern ones are more like rectangular pancakes. The most expensive single one was Honda's $25,000,000 beauty. He said that one "blew away the competition."

Then he showed us some stats on Stanford's new three wheeled car with Sun Power solar cells. Things like 0 to 60 in 13 seconds, top speed of 75 MPH, total weight of 420 lbs. It has such features as an organic LED display that uses much less power than the kind of display found in laptop computers. He couldn't show us the machine itself because it's currently not in drivable shape.

Then he compared a solar race car with a prius. The solar car weighs about 10% of the prius. The solar car has much more efficient wheel motors. The rolling resistance of the wheels is also much lower. All the weight and creature comfort enhancing features in a prius mean that all the power the prius could collect in a day if its body was covered with solar cells would move it 5 miles. The solar race car goes 300 miles on the same amount of charge.

Looking forward, Nathan expects his team to have a car in two races next year. One race crosses Australia from northern end to southern end, and the other goes up the middle of the USA. Looking for a new way to get an edge, they are investigating a new three wheeled steering algorithm to align the body of the car with the wind flow on the road in real time. He would like to see the Stanford team winning! They are looking for sponsors to help make that happen.

During Q&A the following came up:

Solar teams annual budgets range from $40,000 to $2,000,000. Stanford's team spends about $100,000 and gets another $100,000 or so worth of parts and services donated to the cause. By far the biggest line item in the budget is the fiberglass molds for the body parts.

One of the challenges in these races is staying awake while driving down long straight roads through the middle of nowhere. Many teams have drivers that have fallen asleep at the wheel. The challenge is to have a car that recovers from such accidents.

Stanford's solar car racing team is an all volunteer group, so it's a challenge to get everybody on the same page and moving forward together. Just scheduling meetings is tough.

There are about 80 solar car racing teams that compete in these challenges.

The team would love to do some wind tunnel testing, but they can't afford to pay for it. Lockheed wants $100,000 per day to use theirs, so that's not an option. Instead they do computer simulations, which Stanford has good access to.

If you would like to schedule a tour or ask questions, please email contactsolarcar@stanford.edu.