Centaurus III October 2014 Test Drive

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Toni Carlstrom.


This past weekend Centaurus III and a crew of twenty U of M students journeyed from our workshop in St.Paul Minnesota to Hayward, Wisconsin.  We spent the night in Hayward and drove Centaurus back to the cities the next day.  With 150 miles completed in both directions, the team had substantial opportunity to gather data on the suspension and electrical performance of the vehicle.  In addition to this, there were only six members on the drive who had been on the race.  This made it difficult and rewarding to drive the solar car in caravan.

The team met at 7:00 am on Saturday morning, an early start for everyone.  We prepared everything to leave at 9:00.  However, our trailer suffered a fatal injury – its back door hinges had rusted off, making it unusable.  We would like to thank the U of M Formula SAE team for the use of their trailer on this trip – we would not have been able to leave as early as we wanted without their assistance.  Once the solar car, lead vehicle, chase vehicle, and trailer were ready to head out we went over safety procedures for stopping on the side of the road

 Team members normalize Centaurus IIIs shell during our mid-day lunch and control stop.

Team members normalize Centaurus IIIs shell during our mid-day lunch and control stop.

 New team members drill the procedure for stopping on the side of the road before we leave our workshop.

New team members drill the procedure for stopping on the side of the road before we leave our workshop.

We drove smoothly until mid-day, when we stopped in a parking lot for mid-day charging and lunch.  This was a mock control stop – and we impounded our battery for about ½ hour in the middle of the lunch hour.  We ate sandwiches and clementines for lunch, and then continued on our way with everyone in new race crew positions.  Minnesota experienced a small cold snap, so the solar car drivers were chilly on this drive.  Our solar car lacks both a cooling and a heating system!  We even taped over part of the battery ventilation ducts to keep our batteries warmer, as they perform better at medium temperatures.

We arrived just in time to charge for about ½ hour at our teammate’s cabin in Hayward before the sun lowered beneath the trees.  We cooked ourselves a hot dinner of burgers, brats, and stir-fry.  Unfortunately, we forgot to buy ketchup and mustard for the journey.  Next time, we will remember.  After dinner, half of the team sat around the fire and roasted s’mores while the other half played a board game in the cabin.

 Centaurus III turns through the intersection of Lexington and Larpenteur Avenues in St. Paul.

Centaurus III turns through the intersection of Lexington and Larpenteur Avenues in St. Paul.

In the morning, we rose before the sun and set up Centaurus III to get a good morning charge.  We fueled all of our support vehicles and began the drive home.  We stopped again for lunch at mid-day.  It was a good lunch, this time sandwiches, clementines, and chips!  In the afternoon, we had to stop and fix some electrical problems in our battery pack.  Afterwards, we drove Centaurs III back home and packed up for the night.  Overall, it was a great opportunity to learn about our car and teach our new members what solar racing is all about.  Building off of our past designs is one of the ways our team improves our performance year to year.  As we jump into our next build cycle, a cruiser class car to compete in the World Solar Challenge 2015, we have a strong background and will strive to improve our performance.