The race took eight days and covered almost 2,000 miles from Ohio to South Dakota. The issue for every team was that there was precious little sun to provide enough rays to power the vehicles’ batteries, making Michigan’s trip across the finish line a veritable crawl. All of the other entrants, which included Northwestern, Minnesota, Kentucky, and UC Berkeley, had to load their cars onto trailers in order to “finish” the race.
The Michigan team could fall back on experience, though, as it has been around for more than a quarter century, and has produced 13 versions of its solar-electric vehicles. In fact, the team has a bit of a dynasty, as it’s gone a dozen years without being defeated (the American Solar Challenge is held every other year). In all, Michigan has won the American Solar Challenge nine times since the race’s 1990 inception.
This year’s race was all the more impressive for the maize and blue, because the team had a 48-minute penalty out of the gate. That’s because the car was designed for Australia’s World Solar Challenge, so the vehicle didn’t meet the US race regulations, and it was docked accordingly. Moreover, the Michigan solar car finished the race in the rain.