University of Michigan's Novum brings home the best American student team finish

Novum took home the University of Michigan’s most successful world finish yet in a historic second-place win in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

After five days of racing across the Outback through sun, storms, and fierce winds, Michigan crossed the finish line as the first American team to reach Adelaide. Novum’s unconventional skinny, monohull design was an innovative risk—and it paid off.

Our engineers designed and built a small car that broke from solar car design convention, which dictates maximizing array area at all costs, even at the cost of aerodynamic efficiency. This year, UM Solar Car went for a smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic car despite its smaller array area, and equipped it with a highly efficient solar array. This had never been done before in solar car racing—it was a risk, and it paid off.

On October 12th, Novum crossed the finish line and made history, bringing home the best performance by any American student project team.

The smallest, most aerodynamic Michigan solar car ever produced. 

On July 7th at the historic Michigan Theater, we proudly unveiled Novum in the company of our friends, family and sponsors.

Aptly named Novum–Latin for ‘new thing’–the design, manufacturing process and solar technology behind the national champion team’s fourteenth car is different than anything they’ve ever done before.

Measuring just over one meter shoulder to shoulder, Novum is roughly 43 percent narrower than the team’s last vehicle, Aurum. And according to experimental simulation data, it’s roughly 20 percent more efficient.

“The team had to have three things in order to make the switch to the small car,” said Engineering Director Clayton Dailey. “The insight, or the idea, the resources, and the willingness to take the risk. We have to be willing to do something that hasn’t been done before – going to the unknown.”

“I think this race will usher in the next era of solar cars,” Dailey said. “And hopefully we got this right, and are the first to jump on the ship – to a single-fairing, long, skinny car."

Read more: Solar Car Team Goes Small to Win Big at World Solar Challenge