Thank you, Ford!


Ford helped the University of Michigan Solar Car Team at every step of the way, from car construction to race preparation and finally, to the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge itself.

“Manufacturing or racing our 14th car would not have been possible without Ford's support,” 2017 Project Manager Jonathan Cha elaborates, going on to describe the details of Ford’s help. “Ford has supported us with machine time in the Ford Design Milling shop, caravan vehicles, and usage of the Jacobs Wind Tunnel. This year, we designed the most aerodynamic vehicle in the team's 28-year history, and with Ford's help, we were able to verify our vehicle's aerodynamic capabilities in their wind tunnel.”

When we built Novum, Ford milled plugs from our tooling board for us to use in our composites manufacturing process. Building an all-carbon fiber car is no small feat, and having Ford’s help with this all-important step ensured that we put our best foot forward in this difficult process. These plugs enabled us to make our molds, and our molds enable us to make our carbon fiber chassis, canopy, upper, fenders, and fairings. Ford-milled plugs were the first step in building our entire aerobody. This means that Ford Milling had a direct hand in helping the University of Michigan take its most aerodynamic car to date off of the drawing board and into reality.

Once we finished building Novum, BWSC preparations were not over. Ford yet again graciously allowed the University of Michigan Solar Car Team to test its solar vehicle in its Jacobs Wind Tunnel. There, in order to gain a better comprehension of the performance and efficiency of Novum, team members conducted various aerodynamic tests. And because we were testing in Ford’s wind tunnel, we were able to acquire numerous data points for a wider range of angles and speeds than we otherwise could have.


We covered Novum in tell tails, strings attached at several points on the car that enabled our engineers to gauge turbulence and air flow. The team also performed other air flow tests at different yaw angles. Injecting smoke into the wind tunnel, for example, granted the team an opportunity to observe with great visualization where Novum has flow separation along its aerobody.

All these tests and coefficient calculations had far-reaching benefits for Michigan’s racing efforts. Being able to accurately quantify these aerodynamic values meant possessing reliable numbers that we could base our race simulations on; this helped our Strategy Division make decisions and plan ahead when on the road in Australia.

Ford also influenced our race operations, providing us with our Lead, Chase, Scout, Weather, and Media caravan vehicles in Australia to support Novum’s trek across the Outback. Being able to race with this full caravan meant that Novum had the support she needed and our Race Crew’s capabilities were not limited.

Ever a staunch supporter of the team, Ford was integral to the University of Michigan’s recent historic finish in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We are now working together in preparation for the 2018 American Solar Challenge, making sure our team successfully modifies Novum to comply with regulations. For example, Ford milled the plug for our new canopy, which is currently in the process of being built.


We are very grateful for the past 25 years of partnership with Ford, and we look forward to continuing collaboration in the future!

Thank you, Ford

For twenty-six years now, Ford and the University of Michigan Solar Car Team have shared a close relationship. With Ford’s sponsorship, we won the 2016 American Solar Challenge, contributing not only to our own legacy, but to the legacy of this storied partnership.

During the ASC, Ford provided us with four vehicles which made up a principal part of our caravanLead, Chase, Scout, and the team advisor’s car.

The caravan is important because it provides support for Aurum during the race. Lead travels 500 meters ahead of Aurum, navigating and keeping an eye out for problems ahead. Chase follows closely behind Aurum, monitoring its energy input and output and gauging what the best path forward is. Scout drives 10-15 minutes ahead, looking for potholes and filling them, marking them, moving roadkill and warning the main caravan of upcoming rough road or railroad tracksanything that might impede Aurum’s ride.

Having reliable caravan vehicles to carry out these tasks greatly benefits the team.

Another significant contribution by Ford was its granting us access to the Jacobs Wind Tunnel prior to the race.

Michigan needed to test Aurum’s aerodynamics because it added a six-inch crush zone in the form of a bump to the car’s right side. This was in compliance with ASC safety regulations for the driverthe car had previously complied with World Solar Challenge regulations, and it had to undergo modifications before racing in the ASC. Although the bump met the rules, it created a dilemma: the team was concerned as to the kind of aerodynamic obstacle the bump posed.

At the Jacobs Wind Tunnel, Michigan took full advantage of the facility, conducting several aerodynamic tests. It was able to calculate aerodynamic forces on the car by experimenting with different wind speeds and yaw angles. It gauged turbulence with the introduction of smoke to the tunnel and with the use of tell tails, strings tied to the bump.

Thanks to Ford, Michigan had the opportunity to properly diagnose and quantify this aerodynamic hit. This allowed integration of the aerodynamic setback into the team’s strategy models, which meant clearer and more accurate pictures of what should be done throughout the raceit meant more reliable context for our strategists when making decisions.

Thank you again, Ford! We’re very grateful to have you as our partner.

Notes from the Project Manager

The year is shaping up to be pretty eventful for us. As many of you may know, 2015 is our 25th Anniversary of racing solar cars - it's hard to believe that our first car, Sunrunner, raced in 1990. We're incredibly lucky that we have such a rich history: 25 years of stories, failures, and successes that we can build on. The 25th Anniversary is going to be a common theme you'll see in all our media this year. We've got some pretty big plans for 2015 and we can't wait to share them with everyone.

A lot has been going on this past week, both in terms of our next car and the team. Last Wednesday, we unveiled our 2015 race crew - these 20 guys and girls will be taking the summer and Fall semester off to manufacture, test, and race Michigan's next solar car!



This week we also received all our machined plugs from Ford - they've been a tremendous help; our plugs were made with tooling board donated by Axson and DUNA-USA. It's an indescribable emotion to see the machined plugs for the first time; Jiahong and Ryder, two of the team's aerodynamicsts, were in awe - they both spent months perfecting the aerobody in Siemens NX. To see their creation in person for the first time was an unbelievable feeling! 


Two days ago, we sent a crate with supplies to Baltimore - the crate contained tents, lights, and other various equipment that we'll need in Australia. Today, we sent our semi-trailer on its way as well, where both the crate and the semi will begin the several month sea journey to Oz, courtesy of Höegh Autoliners.

It's hard to believe that there's less than 160 days until the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge... each week from now on will be busier than the last.