NSP Contributes $10,000 to University of Minnesota Solar-Powered Car built for National Competition

Minneapolis - Northern States Power Company recently contributed $10,000 to the University of Minnesota's effort to build a solar-powered car that will compete in a 1,221-mile race from Indianapolis, Ind., to Golden, Colo. June 20-29.

"NSP's contribution to the University is only one part of our commitment to solar energy and electric vehicle research," said Kevin Lawless, NSP electric marketing product development manager.

The company has sponsored solar-powered vehicles built by the University of Minnesota and Mankato State University for several years, and currently has a 72-solar panel photovoltaic experiment at the Science Museum of Minnesota and several other residential and commercial solar projects in demonstration. The projects range in electricity output from 0.5 kilowatts to 15 kilowatts.

About 40 universities from North American will compete in the Sunrayce 95 competition in June. The race will be particular interest to many Sunrayce fans in Minnesota: Sunrayce 93 finished before thousands of local spectators at the Minnesota Zoological Garden in Apple Valley, Minn.

This year's race is expected to be even faster as the University of Minnesota attempts to beat Michigan, the Sunrayce 93 winner according to Lawless.

Mohammad Al-Aidy, a team leader of the University of Minnesota solar-powered car effort, reports that the 24-45 person vehicle design team has begun building the University's Sunrayce 95 entry.

Student and faculty members from a variety of disciplines are working on the vehicle, which is housed in the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

In 1993, the University of Minnesota solar-powered vehicle "Aurora-I" finished 21st in a field of 26 and won the "Design Excellence in Engineering Safety" award from the Society of Automotive Engineers, according to the University.

The average speed of Aurora-I was 13.01 miles per hour(m.p.h.), compared to the winning average speed of 27.29 m.p.h of the Michigan vehicle.

"Solar race cars, like Aurora-II, are capable of speeds of more than 65 miles per hour(m.p.h.)," said Al-Aidy, "but the average speed of the best cars will be about 35 m.p.h. due to details like speed limits, cloudy days and the race's technical restrictions."

Some design changes to the University's 1995 vehicle are modular chassis and a new shell layout, which creates a low, airfoil-shaped car, and solar cells of a new technology. The University has also used a large gantry robot to mill the molds for the shell, according to Al-Aidy.

NSP is also sponsoring the Mankato State University solar-powered car for $10,000. Mankato State University's vehicle finished 16th in the 1993 and also raced in 1990.

Research and development in efficient technologies for customer use as well as in photovoltaics, wind power, biomass and other forms of alternative energy are components of NSP's plan to meet customers' energy needs.