Engineering students at Berkeley have spent thousands of hours building the new Impulse Solar Car, which will compete in the 1800-mile World Solar Challenge across Australia in October. The design still needs some refinement in terms of aerodynamics and efficiency, which has led the CalSol design team to grow from its initial 12 students to over 70 in order to finish in time for the race. “We’re making a car, driving it across a continent and powering it with the sun,” said Chris Cartland, the third-year electrical engineering and computer sciences student who heads up CalSol. “It’s the coolest thing I can imagine doing as an undergraduate at Cal.”
The Solar Impulse Car is covered with 6 square meters of solar cells, which power a 9-horsepower motor. Don’t be fooled by the low horsepower numbers, though: while this race is all about endurance and reliability, a low weight of 500 pounds means that power can take the Impulse up to 75 miles per hour when needed to finish the World Solar Challenge within the allotted time.