Centaurus III National Drive Electric Day

Posted on September 23, 2014 by Toni Carlstrom.
 

The University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project brought Centaurus III to display at the State Capitol Mall with more than 100 other plug-in vehicles this past weekend.  The event, sponsored by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association featured green vehicles ranging from a modified mustang to the Tesla Model S.  The event was open to the public and many visitors came to ask us questions about our vehicle.

The sense of community at the event was great – everyone was filled with enthusiasm for renewable energy sources and changing our lives to conserve the environment.  Solar vehicles fit into this vision.  However, stagnating battery and solar cell technologies are impeding the development of all electrical cars and preventing leaps in solar electric vehicle technology.

 A young visitor checks out a sample of the solar cells that cover the surface of Centaurus III.

A young visitor checks out a sample of the solar cells that cover the surface of Centaurus III.

 Centaurus III at the Minnesota State Capitol Building.

Centaurus III at the Minnesota State Capitol Building.

Our team participated in the World Solar Challenge 2013 with a two-passenger vehicle, Daedalus, and plans on participating in the World Solar Challenge 2015 with another cruiser class vehicle.  We are tacking an enormous engineering challenge – how can you make a vehicle as efficient as possible while still being comfortable to ride and safe for the drivers?

In the future, solar vehicles will likely be used as commuter vehicles.  The basic idea is that you would use power driving to work, replenish the power by charging the car in the parking lot while you are working, and then drive home with that saved energy.  If there is a cloudy day, you would simply plug in your solar electric vehicle so that you can drive to work the next day.  Through improvements in battery technology and solar cells, solar vehicles may be commonplace for younger generations.  However, they stand out today – even among other electric vehicles.