The University of Michigan Solar Car Team unveiled their latest solar car model in the Michigan Union June 10.
Rising Engineering junior Joseph Harrington reflected on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the team in the opening address. The World Solar Challenge, an international solar racing competition, was canceled in 2021 due to the pandemic. Harrington said the cancellation pushed the team to expand beyond their central focus on engineering and improve their public engagement, collaborate with partners in relevant industries — such as Ford and Siemens Software — and promote sustainability.
“Not going to the World Solar Challenge in 2021 was uncomfortable because the other facets of our organization needed to grow to fill the void,” Harrington said. “The decision we made in the wake of the pandemic is (that) we are going to embrace that growth.”
Harrington then recognized the 21 individuals of the intended racing crew for the 2021 World Solar Challenge.
Darren Palmer, vice president of Electric Vehicle Programs at Ford Motor Company, congratulated the team on their work and highlighted the practical implications of the project.
“There’s been a long relationship between Ford and (the University),” Palmer said. “It’s because (the University) is one of our greatest sources of fantastic students, many of them in many disciplines including engineering … Projects like this give students the ability to gain real-world experience that is really relevant when it comes to the job, and nothing beats real-world experience.”
Andrew Swiecki, U-M and Solar Car Team alum, reflected on his own experience as a team member constructing and racing the organization’s first solar car, the Michigan Sunrunner, which was built in 1989.
“As I was preparing for today, I watched a couple of videos to look at (my) younger self pulling away those covers,” Swiecki said. “The experience I had as a member of that team was both personally and professionally educationally valuable. (It was) an important part of my life and something that I’m sure will be important parts of your life.”
Rising Engineering junior Terry Li, engineering director and crew chief of the Solar Car Team, came to the stage to officially unveil the car to the crowd. Before doing so, he discussed the significance of the car’s name, Aevum.
“From numerous canceled races, dozens of leadership transitions, a fully-remote design cycle and global supply chain disruptions, this car embodies resilience,” Li said. “The name ‘Aevum’ originates from a Latin word that describes the mean between time and eternity, and this car is a testament of our ability to endure.”
Li then unveiled the car to the crowd — a bright yellow design featuring a silicon solar array — before highlighting the improvements made from the previous model and the implications for future designs.
“By far the most significant technological feature of Aevum is her integrated sensor suite, which the team developed shortly after the car’s main design phase was completed,” Li said. “This suite includes over 300 independent sensors, most of which will be used to gather vehicle performance data and environmental data on demand. By harnessing the capabilities of modern technology, we hope to pave the way towards smarter solar car design and a smarter, more sustainable future as a whole.”
Next month, the team will compete in the Michigan Sun Run, a 3,000-mile cross-country race through 12 states from New York City to Los Angeles.
Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at [email protected]