Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 21, 2003 - If you think gasoline prices are spiraling a bit too high, you might consider checking out the University of Missouri-Rolla's (UMR) solar powered car expected to roll onto campus at Southeast Missouri State University next Wednesday.

The car will be on display outside Rhodes Hall from 9 a.m. to noon. At noon, Scott Essner of Scott City, Mo., vice president for manufacturing and design of the University of Missouri-Rolla's Solar Car Team, will make a presentation in the Otto and Della Seabaugh Polytechnic Building Room 201 on designing and building solar cars. His presentation is titled "Principles of Design for Solar Car Racing."

"You always want to educate people on what technology is out there," Essner said, adding he hopes the team's work will one day result in making electric or solar powered cars more accessible. "We are really pushing the envelope on technology."

Three other members of the Solar Car Team will accompany Essner on the trip to Cape Girardeau. They will display the car and speak to physics classes at Notre Dame Regional High School on Tuesday.

Essner, a 1998 graduate of Notre Dame Regional High School, completed Southeast's two-year non-degree pre-engineering program offered by the Department of Physics in 2000. Via a cooperative program, Essner is now a senior mechanical engineering major at UMR, working towards the completion of a four-year engineering degree. Southeast's pre-engineering program is closely articulated with programs at the University of Missouri-Rolla and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"I felt like I was prepared well at Southeast for life at Rolla," Essner said.

Essner, who expects to graduate from UMR in May, said he joined Rolla's Solar Car Team shortly after transferring there.

"It gives you something to work on and that you can take pride in," he said.

UMR's solar racing car has been built by undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri-Rolla to compete in a cross-country race held every two years. Teams from colleges, universities and technical schools across the country participate, constructing and racing vehicles powered only by the energy from the sun.

Essner has driven the car in races in the past. A previous UMR solar car was the winner of the Sunrayce'99. Last summer, the team traveled to China to race and display its car. The team is planning to participate in a race along Old Route 66 in July.

The purpose of the races is to determine the car's efficiency and how far it can travel at a reasonable rate with as little energy and as few of problems as possible. Efficiency and reliability are keys, because the car can only use the energy from the sun.

UMR's solar car is an electric vehicle with a solar array. The energy from the sun is collected by photons in the solar cells, which compose the solar array. The energy is turned into electricity, which travels through power trackers that maximize the amount of energy needed to run the car according to how much is being collected and the status of the batteries. The electricity then charges the batteries, which are lead-acid, electric vehicle, 12-Volt batteries. The batteries run the motor controller, which decides what speed and torque are needed from the motor to run a certain speed on a certain road and tells it what to do. Then, the motor turns the rear wheel through a drive train and moves the car. There are no transmission or gears to worry about, just a simple, high efficient 10 horsepower DC brushless motor. Telemetry systems tell the team members what is happening inside the car and with all of the components at all times as they travel down the road.

The remainder of the solar car is similar to a regular car, although it looks a little different. It contains a steering system, accelerator control, brake pedals, turn signals, brake lights, dashboard, horn, and windshield. UMR students say the idea is fairly simple: a basic motor and drive train are run by batteries, which are charged by the sun.

The car weights 822 pounds with a 176-pound driver. The body of the car is made of foam and Kevlar.


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