If you don’t live near Detroit, you may have missed a remarkable change. While in the past the Detroit 3 automakers–General Motors, Ford and Chrysler–didn’t take input from outsiders (even while their historic corporations were sliding into the abyss) now they are looking everywhere for ideas to move the automotive industry into a green future as quickly as possible. As an example of this, GM, Ford and Chrysler are all working closely with engineering students from the University of Michigan Solar Car Team to create viable green cars for the future. The companies offered the students manufactured parts, access to their secretive testing grounds, and other assistance recently in turn for allowing them to witness the breakthroughs discovered in the process of building the Quantum solar car, which finished third in the Veolia World Solar Challenge last week in Adelaide, Australia.
“The team works closely with industry in Detroit and with the university. The technologies in the car are things we expect to see on the road in the next decade, such as a super-lightweight carbon-fiber body, a high-performance battery, and a motor that’s 98% efficient,” the team’s business director Chris Hilger told the Detroit Free Press. Also under scrutiny are aerodynamics, and ways to minimize the drag the HVAC system puts on the car’s power reserves. One student on the U-M Solar Car Team even developed an app to measure the speed of the car. David Cole, the chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said of the collaboration, “This is just a tremendous group of students. Everyone tried to hire them. They are going to be the ones who are really going to lead the innovation in the coming years.”
Photo credits Diane Thach and Evan Dougherty