Type: experimental solar-powered racing car
Powerplant: 8 hp New Generation Motors DC brushless motor
Significant date: 1999
The California Polytechnic University in Pomona, California, is commonly refered to as "Cal Poly Pomona". The Cal Poly Solar Car was a racing vehicle designed and built for the 1999 SunRayce, the premiere solar race held in late June from Washington DC to Orlando, Florida, a distance of 1200 miles. There were 55 other colleges from Canada and the United States entered in the 1999 SunRayce. This project involved over 100 people from various majors. The construction of the car was completed around March 1999. The solar car was designed and created almost solely by students, organized as the Cal Poly Solar Car Club, a collaborative student run and designed project, through which individuals gain "real world" experience in design, construction, teamwork, and management (see insert)
Cal Poly's initial solar car design was a bit impractical. The back of the car was covered with solar cells, but all those solar cells could only produce enough power to run an electric hair dryer (about 1,500 watts), which is not enough energy to run a heavy vehicle. The Cal Poly Pomona solar car was also very light, less than 400 pounds, which is not strong enough to be in traffic and protect a driver in an accident with another car or truck. It was also rather uncomfortable, as students had to climb into the car and almost lie down in it. It also didn't turn corners very well.
What set the Cal Poly Solar Car apart from others was its unique two-motor design. Moreover, the car had the lowest frontal surface area of any solar car built until then. Finally, the car's molds were machined at Scaled Composites, which was a guarantee of excellence and professionalism. "We used 3500 pounds of HD foam, glued together with two-part epoxy to make the molds for our solar car. The foam was CNC'd by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites in the windy town of Mojave before we actually laid up the Carbon Fiber skins" said David Thompson, President and a founding member of the Cal Poly Solar Car Club. It probably isn't a coincidence that the young Rutan graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering from Cal Poly.
In the light of these characteristics, it was thought that the Solar Car had an excellent chance at breaking the world speed record for solar vehicles. Yet it cost over a quarter of a million dollars to build, and therefore required much funding, materials and technical help.
Car Weight (w/o driver): 740 lb
The Cal Poly Solar Car Team
"Our club is about teamwork, organization, commitment,
and the drive to succeed. The club is run like a business. We have
design, engineering, publicity, fundraising, and management teams.
Like our school's motto, we 'learn by doing.' This 'real world' experience
is invaluable in industry and helps ensure that our members get excellent
jobs after they graduate. One of the club’s desires, even if
we are not some of the top finishers in the race, is to prove our alternative
ideas, unique designs, and incorporate them into our solar car. By
utilizing these ideas we show creativity and stimulate interest in
our car, college, club and sponsors."