Solar Cars Go On Diets Too

by Scott Grabow, Mechanical Engineer Graduate

During the past two weeks, people who have been working on getting Aurora ready for the Regional Qualifer(RQ) have noticed that Aurora is soundly designed, but is also carrying around some extra weight which can be eliminated.

So during our time at the RQ, we looked at other teams weight and ways for doing things. Some of the ideas are ingenious for removing those "baby fat" parts which are added on to get the car ready to go for the first time.

Some things that definitely will be changing are the manufacturing of the array, changes to the suspension, and changes to the canopy. Each of these changes are not only to improve the sound design, but to drop Aurora's weight in the order of 100-200 pounds.

Weight for Aurora is a parameter we are always trying to remove, this can be seen by the fact that Aurora right now weighs around 625 to 700 lbs. While several of the vehicles that competed in the RQ also weighed about the same amount. Especially Virginia Tech's Solarray IIA, which is the second car of the same design. This car weighs 700 lbs without driver, and is only about the size of the tunnel on Aurora.

With these weight reductions we should be able to move Aurora from the "I am a solar car" league to "World Challenger Solar Car" league. While still keeping in mind that:

Aurora is soundly designed
Aurora also has some extra weight that can be eliminated

Recently at Brainerd International Raceways(BIR) Aurora was found to weigh only 677 pounds. So in the time after Indianapolis, we have managed to reduce the weight considerably by nearly 75 pounds versus the vehicle that was at Regional Qualifiers.