Thank you, IMRA!

IMRA’s support and donations to the University of Michigan Solar Car Team over the past eight years were crucial to the team’s second place finish in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge across the Australian outback this past October, and to our ability to race in the 2018 American Solar Challenge this summer.

As a team that’s driven by technology, we are always happy to receive support from companies that see the value in pushing technology and doing something new. For our fourteenth generation car, the team decided to make a leap and use a state-of-the-art, space grade, multi-junction gallium arsenide array. This solar array is not only highly efficient, but also very expensive. Novum would have remained a UM Solar Car dream without the multi-junction array, which we could not have purchased if not for IMRA. “Without IMRA’s support, Novum would not have been financially viable,” 2017 Race Crew member and the team’s resident financial wizard, Neil Jain, explains. If we hadn’t built a car as aerodynamic as Novum, it is unlikely we would have gotten the amazing result of a best-ever finish by a University of Michigan Team, so we were excited to be able to take Novum out of our Computer Aided Designs and onto the road with the help of IMRA.

IMRA has continually supported UM Solar at every turn, helping us make connections in industries that have greatly benefited the team. Our 2017 Project Manager, Jonathan Cha, emphasizes our valuable relationship with IMRA: “Our team and IMRA have shared an almost decade-long relationship. We’re both located in Ann Arbor and share a similar passion in innovative technologies. Even though we have different focuses, between high-powered lasers and solar-powered vehicles, IMRA has supported us and our endeavours in the American and Bridgestone World Solar Challenges. Our team is grateful for IMRA’s continuous contributions and friendship. Without it, the students who have been on this team would not have had the amazing experiences and opportunities they have today.” We always love working with IMRA, we can’t thank IMRA enough for all that they have done for us, and we’re looking forward to working with them more in the future!

Thank you, GM!


General Motors has been a staunch supporter of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team since the team’s inception, and we have been delighted to partner with them again as we prepared to race Novum both across the Australian Outback and along the Oregon Trail! In addition to the financial support from General Motors, having access to GM vehicles throughout our design and build cycles were critical.

We have utilized vehicles that GM provided not only to our team, but also to the entire Wilson Student Team Project Center. The team has used the vehicles for everything from making runs to pick up materials and parts for the car to taking the car to an elementary school to teach young students about the importance of STEM education and the future of renewable energy. Having access to the Suburban gave us the ability to take large numbers of team members to downtown Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, allowing us to represent our team and sponsors at this important event. And having access to the GMC Sierra and multiple Silverado trucks has made it easy to trailer Novum to where the team needs her to be, particularly for race-critical purposes like on-road testing or caravan training. The ability to train on road, make supply runs, attend meetings with sponsors, and interact with the public helps the team function like a well-oiled machine. Mobility means a lot to our operational efficiency.

Use of the GM cars as caravan vehicles during our current mock race and the 2018 American Solar Challenge, where we seek our seventh consecutive title, is extremely valuable. All our caravan vehicles provide crucial race support and help us race safely and smoothly. 2018 Operations Director Vignesh Jagathese describes, “Without GM vehicles, we wouldn't be able to race 1,800 miles through the American heartland to go after our 10th American Solar Challenge title. GM vehicles form an integral part of our fleet, from our Chase Vehicle, which acts as our mobile mission control and houses our Head Strategist and Crew Chief, to our Lead Vehicle, which drives directly ahead of the solar car and advises upcoming road conditions.” These vehicles have been critical during our mock race and will continue being integral as we go on to race across the country.

We are grateful for GM’s continued support in providing both these vehicles and financial support. The team is looking forward to continuing collaboration with GM!

Thank you, 3M!

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In our day-to-day lives, we are rarely more than 10 feet away from 3M technology. 3M is a company rooted in scientific exploration and discovery, and they are ever evolving. They believe that science is just science until it is used to solve a problem. And that is exactly what is reflected in their vision: 3M technology advancing every company, 3M products enhancing every home and 3M innovation improving every life.

And for those of us at UM Solar Car, 3M’s unique versatility could not be more evident. For the 2015 race cycle, 2016 American Solar Challenge, and our most recent 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, 3M provided us with a multitude of equipment including, but not limited to: DP 460 glue, 471 vinyl tape, electrical tape, glass bubbles, duct tape, sandpaper, orbital sanders, full body suits, and respirators for safety.


3M has been an invaluable sponsor to the team, and a quick walk through our workspace will show the absolute ubiquity with which we use 3M’s tape, adhesives, and safety equipment.

The 471 vinyl tape serves a crucial role through its adhesive strength as it holds the fairings to the chassis of the car and eliminates gaps between individual components so as to maximize aerodynamic efficiency.

The full body suits and respirators have proven essential through their reliability and durability as they are staple tools in making sure our team members stay safe and clean when working with components which could potentially pose health risks.


The electrical tape and heat shrink insulate the wires of the vehicle, preserving the functional and structural integrity of our electrical components, and the vinyl car wrap aesthetically topped off Novum, providing her with a sleek, colorful appearance and complementing her already strong aerodynamic efficiency.

In our most recent race, the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge through the Australian Outback, we were exposed to terrain which challenged us and pushed us to our technical, mental, and physical limits. As a team, we were working with the novel, boundary-pushing design of our smallest vehicle yet, Novum. Along with this came exceedingly rigorous scrutiny, planning, and labor, both internal and external.

However, 3M’s products and support were key in helping us maintain the structural integrity of our vehicle and the well-being of our team members, allowing us to power through with Novum and race to 2nd place, our best yet World Solar Challenge finish.

According to UM Solar Car Operations Director Vignesh Jagathese, "3M has consistently helped the University of Michigan Solar Car Team through our toughest design cycles. 3M products are heavily used in our manufacturing process, and the high quality of their products helps us build the fastest car possible."

It would take pages to fully describe the value that 3M so graciously provides us as a team, but the overarching idea can be summed up in one phrase: 3M holds us together, both literally and figuratively.

Thank you, 3M, for being everything from the shield that protects us to the adhesive that binds us. We look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in the future!

Thank you, Teijin!


Teijin was integral to the University of Michigan’s historic 2nd place finish in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, providing us with the materials necessary to build our incredible car, Novum.

Nearly all of the composite fibers for the car came from Teijin. Teijin gave UM Solar Car high graded prepregged uni-directional carbon fiber to reinforce stress points, prepregged carbon fiber weave for internal aero parts, and Aramid Twaron fabrics for the undercarriage of the car and the sidewalls and roll cage of its chassis.

This all translated to a significant amount of weight savings, shaving off countless precious minutes and contributing to our great race time. And thanks to the high quality of Teijin materials, we were able to proceed with construction and racing with full confidence in the structural integrity and safety of our vehicle. Twaron, for example, increased the impact resistance of the carbon fiber laminate, ensuring superior protection in the event of a crash.

Bit by bit, we pieced our car together using Teijin carbon. And we are very grateful that was the case, because the superior quality of Teijin’s product allowed us to build the best possible manifestation of our bold monocoque design.

“The carbon was some of the highest quality in terms of material property that the team has been able to get in recent years,” Composites Lead Bennet McGlade describes. Teijin allowed Novum to be as formidable and competitive as we had envisioned.


Teijin also proved to be an invaluable partner, helping us stay on track when our timeline was crunched. “Although Teijin is a first-time sponsor, they are very enthusiastic and helpful,” says Race Operations Engineer Janice Lau. “They really worked hard to find everything in time for us to use on the car, and we really appreciate it.”

During the design phase, Novum’s aerodynamic efficiency was always a top priority. Novum’s ultra-small body maximized aerodynamic efficiency and went against the widely-adopted credo in solar racing that maximizing array area and building a larger, less aerodynamic car is the best strategy. With this unconventional smaller solar car, Michigan Solar Car hoped to go big by going small, and building with Teijin’s high-quality carbon fiber equipped us to do just that when the time came.

Thank you, Teijin! We could not have done it without you! Now, heading into the 2018 American Solar Challenge, we can feel confident; we know that in partnering with Teijin, we put our best foot forward during the manufacturing process and built a car that was safe as well as fast. After all, we built Novum with some of the absolute best carbon and aramid in the world.

Thank you, TE Connectivity!

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Here on the University of Michigan Solar Car team, we pride ourselves on systems excellence, and that includes our technical and operational systems.

TE Connectivity helped our team and our systems tremendously. In 2016, the Solar Car we designed, built and raced won the US national championship and, in 2017, took 2nd at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in the Australian Outback.  

TE provided us with high voltage system connectors as well as contactors, which connect our electrical systems and activate them, respectively. This was huge in contributing to the functionality of our vehicle as we raced through the rough terrain of the Australian outback. Our car saw temperatures in the 100s, thunderstorms and very high winds along the 1,800 mile journey.  Electrical safety and true automotive grade durability were paramount, to say the least.

In the outback, it is imperative that everything we have, everything we make, and everything we do works to its maximum capacity no matter what, and our high voltage systems did just that in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

The contactors we received very much complemented the functionality and quality of the connectors, allowing our systems to run at their optimal efficiencies and capabilities.  Our students gained tremendous insight and experience in world class Automotive and Electric Powertrain engineering working with TE professionals and TE components.

The connectors we received from TE saved us an immense amount of time on crimping, connecting, and disconnecting our high voltage components. With strong and durable physical connections from the battery to motor controllers, battery to array controls, and motor controllers to motors, our race crew could have the utmost confidence in our system efficacy and focus in on race strategy.

According to BWSC 2017 Race Crew Engineering Director Clayton Dailey, “The equipment TE Connectivity gave to the team simplified and expedited our high voltage component handling, helping us immensely during the race.”

We look forward to using TE’s equipment again in the upcoming 2018 American Solar Challenge as well.

With everything we do, we take a systemic point of view. Every part is crucial to the other part, and systems work in tandem to produce the best possible result. Having an efficient and well-connected high voltage system allowed us to move forward and perform to our highest potential.

And so we say Thank You to the team at TE Connectivity who have helped us and worked with us on the 2017 World Solar Challenge and more. Thank you, TE, for your support: in work and in spirit.

We are grateful to have you as an engineering partner and a Gold sponsor, and we look forward to seeing what can happen in the future!

Thank you, Elcon Precision!

The University of Michigan’s 2017 vehicle’s carbon fiber aerobody and state-of-the-art array are exciting, but beyond the car’s exterior are other crucial elements, things like the steering rack or the microsystems--or the battery. Elcon Precision supported UM Solar Car by helping us optimize our car’s battery pack; Elcon supplied our team with copper tabbing, which allowed us to custom-design our battery pack.

In addition to providing us with custom copper tabbing, Elcon also advised our team on its design, revising the drawings of copper tabbing our engineers sent to them.

Copper tabbing involves welding copper to a battery in order to strengthen and aid electric current. For us, this is a crucial step in the battery-building process because incorrect welding of this copper increases the chances of experiencing voltage drops. This would make life for Novum particularly hard; as a car whose sole energy source is the unreliable sun, it helps to have a dependable battery pack.

2017 High Voltage Lead Brad Baker explains how complicated this crucial component is and how Elcon plays a key role. “On these tabs, it’s important to have precise cutouts with clean edges with no warping to make the welding process as good as it can be. Elcon graciously provided us with low resistance copper we used in the tabbing, and with chemical etching, a very specialized process.”

Chemical etching is a controlled material removal process that results in complex parts and is capable of producing great detail. Using chemical etching, Elcon very accurately cut thin, reflective materials without any of the edge warping that Brad mentioned would threaten the quality. Elcon helps make our battery so reliable because its copper tabbing is such high quality.

Thanks to Elcon Precision’s expertise, UM Solar Car built a strong battery that helped successfully carry Novum across the Australian Outback to a historic second place finish! Thank you!

Thank you, Molex!


Molex, LLC has long been a valued sponsor of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, supporting our operations with top-of-the-line connectors that make our system reliable, polished, and easy to repair.

Molex provides UM Solar Car with over a thousand Micro-Fit and C-Grid connectors that our electrical engineers solder onto the printed circuit boards (PCBs) that support various systems of the car. These connectors then plug into other matching Molex connectors, which all feed into the Control Area Network (CAN) line, a harness of wiring that connects all the circuit boards within the car, tying it all together like a central nervous system.

2017 Race Crew Electrical Engineer and Driver Caroline Subramoney elaborates on this, explaining that "Molex provides us with an unbelievable variety of connectors, which we use on all of our circuit boards. These give a real professional feel to our electronics and generally improve the appearance. They also, of course, reduce the risk of electrical failures, such as unintended shorting.”

Race Crew Electrical Engineer and Driver Caroline Subramoney has a lot of praise for Molex!

Race Crew Electrical Engineer and Driver Caroline Subramoney has a lot of praise for Molex!

Molex connectors boast an incredible ease of use that facilitates repairs and overall utilization. They latch into place, simplifying the process of detaching and reattaching new circuit boards, which comes in handy in the event of a failure on the team’s part because it enables a speedy and effective recovery—something that is especially crucial in the middle of the race. And although our electrical engineers could have just soldered the wires in, it would be unwise to place 12 volts so near to the ground and position the two CAN communication lines close to one another without Molex connectors to provide insulation. “Without Molex connectors,” Caroline explains, “doing this would be risky at best and catastrophic at worst.” Molex made it possible for us to build the optimal solar car by allowing us to be flexible in ways like this when designing our microsystems.

“Molex has never failed us,” Caroline aptly praises. “I'm ecstatic we had the opportunity to work with them as a sponsor!"

Thank you, Roush!

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At Roush facilities and with the guidance of Roush expertise, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team built the carbon fiber body of our car, Novum, which brought home Michigan’s strongest Bridgestone World Solar Challenge finish yet, 2nd place. First and foremost, this means Roush provided UM Solar Car with vital access to a large, professional workspace for prepreg composites manufacturing, providing us the best possible venue to undergo this process.

In doing this, Roush granted us the opportunity to use specialized equipment to enhance our efforts each step of the way.

CNC (computer numerical control) knife cutters, for example, helped with kitting, which makes hand layup easier. Hand layup is a composite fabrication method that involves layering fabric onto the molds. The fabrics that will soon go onto the molds must first be carefully cut into specific patterns or shapes, and kitting makes fabric placement easier because it involves cutting sets of fabric patterns and assembling them into kits. Here, Roush’s CNC knife cutters allowed for precision cutting of our materials.

Armed with these fabric patterns, the team began hand layup, hand-placing layers of dry fabric, or “prepreg” plies, onto a mold, which created something called a laminate stack. Then, resin was applied via resin infusion and the plies were then “debulked,” or compacted in a vacuum bag. This minimizes the creation of voids, or air pockets, in the laminate, which would likely weaken the composite. All the while, Roush staff were on hand, helping UM Solar Car build a better car by providing layup tips, watching for any errors, and advising team members on the best materials to use and where to use them.

After debulking, it was time to cure the laminate. Roush’s facilities are equipped with car-sized ovens and large autoclaves, specialized equipment which were of great use to us. Being able to use an autoclave for this curing process was important, because it helped the team achieve an optimal resin-to-fiber ratio and to avoid the formation of undesirable voids. With such instruments at its disposal, Michigan felt confident that its painstaking work would yield lightweight, strong parts.

Team members hard at work in Roush's facilities.

Team members hard at work in Roush's facilities.

We would not have been able to do all of this in our base of operations, the Wilson Student Team Project Center; Roush made Novum’s construction possible, and made the construction process run that much more smoothly. Our Operations Director, Peter Rohrer, highlights how significant Roush’s support is to the success of the Michigan Solar Car Team, saying, “Roush’s unparalleled workspace and expertise in composites manufacturing are a crucial asset to us, allowing us to have total confidence in the performance of our vehicle’s structures, which are made entirely of composite materials.”

Roush enabled us to build the car that performed so successfully in Australia this fall. With Roush’s support, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team moved its cutting-edge design into the three-dimensional world and made its vision a reality. We look forward to continuing this trajectory by collaborating with Roush as we make changes to Novum and prepare for the upcoming American Solar Challenge!

Thank you, Chuck!


Every solar race is different. Every race, we have a new Race Crew and a new car built around new regulations that ultimately shape design and fabrication. But one thing has never changed: Chuck Hutchins’ unwavering support of the team and its race towards a victory.

Among the many things Chuck does for our team, nothing beats seeing him at the starting line waving the maize and blue flag loud and proud, guiding our solar car. Since he first ran with the car Maize and Blue in 1993, Chuck has given our cars this send-off at the start of nearly every solar race in a sign of solidarity and tradition. The 2017 World Solar Challenge was no exception, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!

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Chuck has been a longtime friend of the team. Since the very beginning, Chuck has been a mentor and advocate to the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. As a safekeeper of tradition and team culture, Chuck has instilled UM Solar Car values in generation after generation of our team. This cycle was no exception, with Chuck inspiring us to uphold and further the UM Solar Car tradition of excellence.

Chuck studied Mechanical Engineering and co-founded Manufacturing Data Systems, Inc., and Chuck’s experience in engineering and innovation was invaluable during the development of Novum, our most daring vehicle to date. This cycle, Chuck also provided the team with monetary support that helped us make the dream of Novum a reality; when our engineers were working on Novum’s design, the largest hurdle the team faced was financing the car. Chuck’s contribution set us one step closer and eventually helped this dream come to fruition. Chuck’s contributions didn’t end there, though. He was right beside Race Crew in Australia and treated them to several team dinners. After a long day of work, this was a great opportunity for Race Crew to decompress and spend time with Chuck, something they were very grateful for.


“Since 1990, Chuck has been a supporter of the team and our biggest fan on and off the race. I met Chuck for the first time over the summer and noticed that his passion and dedication to the team is unparalleled in all regards,” says 2017 Business Race Crew member Neil Jain. “From providing engineering advice at design reviews and stopping by the Wilson Center to see the car as it’s being built to being right by our side during the race, Chuck embodies UM Solar Car and wishes the best for the team always. I am looking forward to sharing many more memories with him and cannot thank him enough for all that he does for us. Chuck, THANK YOU!”

To our biggest fan and longest supporter: thank you, Chuck! We could not have won second place without you! We look forward to kicking off the next race with you and to experiencing even bigger and better things together.

Thank you, Altair!


Altair software and technical support was crucial to the construction of the University of Michigan’s newest solar car, Novum. A staunch supporter of UM Solar Car, Altair provided the team with generous access to its HyperWorks® software suite and Inspire®, as well as with technical advice. Composites Lead Bennet McGlade says that "Through the use of Altair's powerful analysis and optimization software package and with help from their fantastic technical and engineering support, we were able to build the fastest and safest car possible."

The HyperWorks suite was particularly useful for composite analysis, allowing our engineers to determine whether aspects of the design would fail under specific conditions.

Our engineers assigned material properties to the geometry of Novum’s CAD designs, and then applied loads using HyperMesh®, which illustrated the stress and strain values throughout the structure. This not only allowed us to see where the parts were most likely to fail or how much they might deform, but also allowed us to decide where to add more layers or plies to the structure, decisions that our Race Crew executed during the carbon manufacturing process, when we constructed Novum’s carbon fiber aerobody.

Altair’s OptiStruct® solver also aided in composite analysis, running optimizations that our engineers could base on certain criteria that they assigned. These optimizations told our engineers which were the lightest, safest designs; they then interpreted these results into a manufacturable layout and stacking pattern, which also aided our Race Crew during carbon manufacturing. Our engineers began with setting up the model with the geometry from CAD and with an initial analysis before beginning the three-step optimization process. The first step, free size, gives a continuous distribution of material thickness; the second, size, accounts for the individual thickness of each ply; and the third, shuffling, recommends the order in which each ply should be laid. Once the optimization process is completed, UM Solar engineers polish it and make the model manufacturable before again checking the analysis for all the different load cases.

“It’s a fairly complicated task,” Bennet says of composites analysis. “But HyperWorks is both versatile and powerful, which helps a lot. More importantly, though, it has fairly specialized tools and options specifically for composite analysis.”

Altair’s HyperWorks streamlined the composite analysis process, and its Inspire software was similarly crucial during the metal parts optimization process. Mechanical Lead Perry Benson explains that this is both a powerful design tool in the hands of experienced team members and a powerful instructional tool for newer team members.

“For the more experienced members, it lets the team squeeze every last ounce of unnecessary weight out of our components,” Perry details. Lightweighting was a main endeavor during the design process as the team strove towards its vision of the lightest, most aerodynamic car possible, so this was very important. We also had the ability to run assembly analysis to confirm that these optimized parts would coordinate properly as a system, ensuring that we had a car greater than the sum of its parts.

And for newer members of the team, Perry elaborates, Inspire helps teach newer members how to properly load and constrain parts and assemblies, gaining them a better overall understanding of the importance of design constraints. The software enables UM Solar engineers to visualize where on a given part the material is important; this visualization means they can better know how stress and load “flow” through the part.

“And being able to consider manufacturability during optimization also reduces the number of steps and time required from initial design to final part,” Perry concludes. In the end, this all yields the creation of more superior parts.

From creating ply schedules in CAD to applying forces to the car, Altair’s sophisticated software tools empowered UM Solar Car to optimize Novum to the maximum. And from composite analysis to metal parts optimization, it was all crucial to our mission, because the safer and sturdier our car is, the more reliable it is for our drivers on the road when racing, and the surer we are that we comply with regulations on safety and other things. And, ultimately, the faster Novum moved through the scrutineering phase of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, when officials inspect each team’s solar car to verify that all regulations are met and the vehicle is ready to hit the road.

Between its software and engineering support, Altair played a key role in getting Novum race-ready, and when the time came, Novum performed spectacularly, securing a second-place finish with Altair’s help. And now, as we look to the American Solar Challenge this summer, we are excited to continuing work with Altair to ensure Novum meets regulations. Thank you, Altair!

Thank you, Cummins!

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The University of Michigan Solar Car Team was excited to partner with Cummins for the first time!

Cummins’ support of this cycle was exciting for our team; at the same time that they venture further into the electrification space, looking to become a leader in electrification with their new electric semi-trailer, Michigan Solar Car took a radically different approach. Novum would not have been made possible without companies like Cummins who recognize the importance of innovation in both solar and electric vehicles.

It takes a lot of guts to branch off of what engineers before you have done, and our team was lucky to find a company that not only ensures that they are doing that, but that students working on projects like Solar Car also have the opportunity to innovate and try new things. Our 2017 Business Director, Abigail Siegal, explains how significant Cummins’ contribution to the UM Solar Car Team has been, saying, “While our team has always built an electric car, this year we were also moving away from from our traditional path, making a shift from using a catamaran design to a bullet-shaped car. Without Cummins' support, our risk-taking wouldn't have been possible and we wouldn't have been able to have the success we did.” We were excited that this year we had our best-ever finish and were able to welcome Cummins to the University of Michigan Solar Car family!

As we move into preparing for the 2018 American Solar Challenge and then the design cycle for our 2019 car, we look forward to partnering further with Cummins and continuing this tradition of striving for innovation!

Thank you, University of Michigan College of Engineering!


The University of Michigan College of Engineering is an indispensable partner of UM Solar Car, providing us with everything from our workspace and our students to financial support and media coverage.

Our team is housed in the College of Engineering’s Wilson Student Team Project Center, the hub of all our operations. Here, the team designs, stores composites and materials, meets to discuss sourcing, hosts corporate sponsors, welds, saws, sands, and more. The Wilson Center is UM Solar Car’s home, and it’s where, bit by bit, Novum was born.

Our space in the Wilson Center is vital to our operation.

Our space in the Wilson Center is vital to our operation.

We are also very lucky and proud to be the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. Our recruits study at one of the top engineering schools in the world, and this means that our engineers are talented and dedicated, and well-equipped to handle the challenges of designing, building, and racing a solar car. "We are always grateful to the College of Engineering for drawing the bright engineers who make projects like Novum possible to Michigan, and for giving them the world class education needed to compete amongst the best teams on the planet," Project Manager Noah Bearman remarks.

Michigan Engineering supported the team with funds, as well, helping us avoid a situation in which financial constraints could have prevented the construction of our faster, riskier, more innovative—and more expensive—design, Novum.

During the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, the College of Engineering also aided UM Solar Car with media coverage, posting on social media and publishing detailed stories and press releases about our Race Crew’s life in Australia, the excitement of the race, and the great meaning of our historic finish.

UM Solar Car is very grateful for Michigan Engineering’s continued strong support, without which we could not have raced to our best-ever WSC finish. We look forward to what comes next and we are determined to continue representing our school proudly and successfully. Thank you!

Thank you, Saturn Electronics!

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The 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge was most certainly a leap forward for us as a team technically, personally, as well as strategically. Our new vehicle Novum pushed the boundaries of our team’s technical expertise. Our new design made the car adopt a narrow, streamlined aerodynamic design in order to leverage maximum output from our internal systems. We decided to implement a gallium arsenide array—different from the traditional silicon design with which solar cars tend to be built—in the hopes that we could utilize energy from the sun as efficiently as we possibly could. Above all, we raced with these innovations, realizing that what we were doing was uncharted territory.

Thanks to our Michigan-based partner Saturn Electronics, we were able to power through this uncharted territory with all our systems working smoothly due to the high-quality circuit boards they provide us with.

These circuit boards, printed and designed to maximum precision, allowed for Novum to be both reliable and efficient on the operational end of our vehicular design and racing, with the boards providing electronically connecting capabilities for our microelectrical systems. Our vehicle’s lighting board, horn board, steering dashboard, and battery pack, among many other components, were able to be integrated both smoothly and highly functionally into our vehicle, all thanks to Saturn’s engaging and efficient team.

While these are ubiquitous aspects to any vehicle, Saturn’s circuit boards boast an incredible level of durability, functionality, and energy efficiency which we at UM Solar value immensely.

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There is always a lot going on during a race. From harsh terrain to strategic planning, a lot can happen during a race that we can’t always plan for. However, the high-quality circuit boards allow for us to save time and increase the reliability of our electric systems as their compactness, connectivity, and stability against movement make it easy for us to organize and utilize our multitude of electronic system components.

In other words, if our racers, wheels, and battery make our car move, then Saturn makes our car work. "We wouldn't have microsystems without the PCBs that Saturn provides," 2018 Microsystems Lead Brendan Adkins remarks. "That's a big deal."

From all of us at Michigan Solar Car, thank you Saturn, for your gracious and reliable support, and we are looking forward to what we can accomplish together in the future!

Höegh Autoliners Provides Vital Support to Solar Car Race Team

Today, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team’s semi-trailer leaves for shipment to Australia for the 2017 World Solar Challenge. On arrival, it will participate alongside the team in our 3000 km World Championship race from Darwin to Adelaide.

The semi-trailer– packed with crucial supplies– has a long journey ahead of it, and we have entrusted it to the capable hands of Höegh Autoliners.

The trailer will leave the United States in Baltimore aboard the vessel Höegh Yokohama. It will then travel to Bremerhaven, Germany, where it will be transhipped on to Höegh’s Europe to Oceania service before arriving in Melbourne, Australia. There, it will be met by our Race Crew in time for final race preparations.


The orange line in the image above details the sailing pattern that the semi will take aboard Höegh Ro-Ro Vessels .

The orange line in the image above details the sailing pattern that the semi will take aboard Höegh Ro-Ro Vessels .

An integral part of our race operations, the semi enhances UM Solar’s mobility and ability to problem-solve on the fly. The semi will store everything our Race Crew will need to eat, sleep, and perform car maintenance while racing through the Outback. This means military-grade tents, car parts, tools, and—when it’s not driving or charging—the solar car itself.

In short, the semi serves as a hub of operations that carries everything necessary for a successful race. This kind of support is crucial when competing in an event that can find the team as many as 300 km from the closest sign of civilization—often just a gas station.

In the event that the car malfunctions, underperforms, or is damaged while on the road, the semi holds enough materials for the team to fix or even completely rebuild any part of the solar vehicle. The only exceptions are a few components that are impossible to build on the road, like the carbon fiber chassis. The Outback is unpredictable and solar racing is grueling, so the insurance provided by our semi trailer is indispensable.

As the only solar-racing team that utilizes a semi-trailer over a smaller box truck, we believe the comprehensive inventory of supplies it allows us to carry give us a competitive edge. Höegh makes this competitive edge possible by transporting the semi on their Roll on-Roll off service. With up to six meters of free deck height and the ability to load cargo as heavy as 375 tons, Höegh’s Ro-Ro vessels are more than capable of transporting our full-sized semi trailer. With 90 years in shipping, the experience and expertise that Höegh has built over the years gives us the confidence that their fleet is conceivably the best equipped in the world to safely and reliably ship our semi to and from Australia for us.

Our partnership with Höegh allows us to bring our semi-trailer to and from Australia for every race—allowing a level of support unmatched by any other team in the race,” Operations Director Peter Rohrer explains. “Without Höegh’s generous support, we would be hard-pressed to maintain the level of excellence we rely on."

UM Solar’s semi-trailer is loaded onto Höegh’s H. Yokohama v49 at port in Baltimore.

UM Solar’s semi-trailer is loaded onto Höegh’s H. Yokohama v49 at port in Baltimore.

In the Fall, after UM Solar has completed the World Solar Challenge, Höegh will not only ship back the semi-trailer, but the solar car as well.

Safe transportation is crucial for the car. With its fragile solar array affixed to the top and ultra-light aerobody, our car is a highly specialized and expensive vehicle that must be handled with care. This is guaranteed; Höegh’s cargo handling personnel are on-site at both load and discharge to carefully monitor the cargo operations. Furthermore, by stowing the car under deck no seawater, which can cause erosion, will reach the vehicle during the entire transportation process.

Höegh Autoliners has supported the team since 2015, and we have always had very positive experiences with Höegh’s handling and shipment of our solar cars; we know we can trust Höegh with our most exciting vehicle yet.

The support of Höegh Autoliners sets up the University of Michigan Solar Car Team for success in the 2017 World Solar Challenge, and makes possible high-functioning race operations in the middle of the Outback.

Thank you, Höegh Autoliners!

Thank you, 3M

The University of Michigan Solar Car Team and 3M share a close partnership. 3M provides Michigan with a vast array of products that aid the team with everything from team safety to structural support and aerodynamics.

3M keeps our team members safe while working on the car with such products as respirators, which prevents them from inhaling substances that can hurt the lungs, such as carbon dust or tooling board dust. 3M provides Personal Protection Equipment, as well; while working on the car or on the team’s semi, team members sport 3M full-body suits. The team extensively uses other safety fundamentals, like 3M electrical tape and heat shrink, which insulate wires, adding protection. All of these contributions by 3M were vital for team well-being during solar car Aurum’s build cycle.

UM Solar Car team member dons 3M protective full-body suit and respirator.

UM Solar Car team member dons 3M protective full-body suit and respirator.

Aurum won the University of Michigan its ninth overall American Solar Challenge title, and 3M products keep it structurally sound. Aurum is held together by 3M adhesives. DP 100, DP 105, DP 420, DP 460, VHBthese are all very strong adhesives that play key roles in Aurum’s make-up. For example, the glue DP 460 bonds the car’s chassis, its basic frame, to the lower portion of its body. VHB (Very High Bond) tape holds Aurum’s solar array to the upper. The team also uses 3M’s 471 vinyl tape to tape the car’s seams together, to tape the fairings to the body of the car, and to tape the upper to the lower. During every charging period of the 2016 ASCevery morning, every night, at every checkpoint, and at every Stage stopMichigan’s race crew un-taped and re-taped the car. The team uses 471 vinyl for this because it is effective, lightweight and easy to both remove and replace. This facilitates the charging process, which involves detaching the upper from the lower and angling it so that the array points towards the sun.

The team applies 3M 471 vinyl tape to Aurum.

The team applies 3M 471 vinyl tape to Aurum.

471 vinyl tape also has aerodynamic merit; by covering the car’s seams, it helps with minimizing drag, thus maximizing aerodynamics. 3M helps Michigan create the most aerodynamic vehicle possible with sanding materials as well, like sandpaper and orbital sanders. Michigan uses these tools to make the car’s surface smoother. This makes the car more aerodynamic, which, in turn, means it consumes less power. Aurum’s aerodynamic body was a huge reason it won the 2016 ASC as the only car to finish solely on solar power3M had a hand in reaching that aerodynamic standard.

After the race, 3M hosted the UM Solar Car Team at its headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. While visiting, the team gave a presentation on how the ASC had gone and how we used 3M products to build Aurum.

UM Solar’s 2016 ASC Race Crew at 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

UM Solar’s 2016 ASC Race Crew at 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Members of 3M’s team gave UM Solar a tour of the 3M Innovation Center and showed us many exciting products they had invented like reflective films. 3M also presented the team with more 3M products that the team could use in the upcoming build cycle for the 2017 World Solar Challenge. We look forward to working with 3M on incorporating some of these technologies into our 2017 car and on furthering our partnership.

In 2014, Aurum was built with 3M. In 2016, Aurum crossed the ASC finish line held togetherquite literallyby 3M. Now, in 2017, we look forward to working with 3M on our new car. Thank you, 3M.

Thank you, Altair

For over 12 years, Altair has sponsored the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, and its HyperWorks products enable the team to develop the lightest, safest, strongest solar vehicles possible.

Altair is among the most supportive of our sponsors, granting the team unlimited access to its software suite of tools and educational resources. Any individual on the team can take advantage of this valuable resource. The main tools UM Solar utilizes include HyperMesh, HyperView, and OptiStruct. Having this software at the team’s disposal was crucial when designing Aurum, the car that won Michigan its sixth consecutive American Solar Challenge title this past summer.

Altair’s software meets the team’s needs for meshing, model setup, analysis, optimization, and lightweighting. "Altair's Hyperworks Suite allows us to optimize our vehicle to the absolute limit, whether it’s analyzing the structural composites that keep the driver safe or determining the best suspension geometry to keep the driver on the road; we can iterate quickly and find the optimal solution,” 2015 Engineering Director Arnold Kadiu says. “Altair’s software allows us to optimize each part to make a solar car that is greater than the sum of it's parts.”

With HyperWorks, the team’s engineers analyze composites, create ply schedules in CAD, and apply forces to the car to visualize what parts of it are put under stress or strain; in essence, HyperWorks enables Michigan’s engineers to determine that the parts they design will not fail under certain conditions. Michigan analyzed the roll cage, for example, for rollover conditions. Michigan took a risk with the roll cage; the team had never built a carbon fiber roll cage before, but we were determined to have Aurum sport one. A carbon fiber roll cage would yield significant aerodynamic gains by reducing the frontal area of the canopy, greatly increasing speed. Since the carbon fiber roll cage was a first and thus a risk, the team had to be absolutely certain the roll cage would not fail. HyperWorks gave Michigan that degree of certainty, providing it the best platform with which to do something it had never done before.

Altair’s influence during this design process extends further than its HyperWorks software. The company also supported Michigan with training and access to local application specialists for technical support. And Altair’s willingness to help the team explore other software tools yielded quicker, more accurate solutions.

In the 2015 design phase, HyperWorks made it possible for UM Solar to build a competitive car, Aurum. In 2016, HyperWorks made it possible for UM Solar to adjust Aurum’s specifications to meet ASC regulations while remaining a formidable, competitive car.

When Aurum was first built, it met all the regulations for the 2015 World Solar Challenge, but the 2016 American Solar Challenge had its own set of regulations, and there wasn’t always overlap; in order to even compete in the race it would later win, Aurum had to first undergo some reconfigurations.

It was crucial that Michigan not compromise Aurum’s effective design while making these necessary reconfigurations, and HyperWorks made that possible. ASC safety regulations called for the addition of a crush zone six inches out on the driver’s side, so UM Solar designed a crush zone “wing” that complied with the regulations while minimizing aerodynamic setbacks. As UM Solar geared up to compete in the ASC, its engineers also used HyperWorks to revisit Aurum’s suspension models and analyze its chassis for side impact and front collision. Since Altair’s software helped the team ensure its car was safe, robust, and met all regulations, Michigan was able to finish the scrutineering, or inspection, phase of the race first. This set the team up for success, because it consequently started the qualifying track race from pole position.

Altair’s software, trainings, and technical specialists helped make Aurum the formidable solar vehicle it is. Thank you, Altair.

Thank you, GM

Since the early years of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team’s pursuit, GM has been one of our most committed supporters. The team’s close partnership with GM enabled its historic victory in the 2016 American Solar Challenge.

GM supplied us with two long-term vehicles to utilize while racing, contributing to our caravan the Weather and Media vehicles, two cars that played key roles during the 2016 ASC.

The team’s caravan supports solar car Aurum during the race, ensuring as smooth a ride as possible. Different race crew tasks are compartmentalized within different caravan vehicles in order to maximize efficiency and make things run as seamlessly as possible for the driver in Aurum.

The Weather vehicle is one of the most important pieces of the caravan, driving 30-45 minutes ahead of the solar car and relaying relevant information back to the team’s strategists in the Chase vehicle, keeping them aware of conditions like cloud cover or the severity of a storm along the route that the team’s weather models anticipated. At the end of each day, the strategists in Chase send Weather a range of possible locations, and Weather scopes out a location ideal for charging. And when that End of Day location is decided on, Weather readies the area for Aurum’s arrival. Meanwhile, the Media vehicle allows the team to keep up a media presence, documenting the race through photography, videography, social media updates, and press materials. Media also has more flexibility than the other caravan vehicles, so it can travel ahead of or behind the main caravan, which affords it the opportunity to do some of the same scouting as Weather if the situation calls for it. The Media car also pulls into the End of Day location before Aurum; there, Media aids in setting up the space for the car, in flagging it into the allotted spot, and in removing the car’s canopy. And since Media carries the sprayer, it also helps with cooling the array for charge time.

Having GM’s dependable vehicles in our caravan benefits the team immensely, because it gives assurance when performing key duties.

GM also granted Michigan access to its Global Battery Systems Lab. Here, the team’s engineers built Aurum’s battery in an environment with the relevant safety measures, oversight, and equipment they needed to do so successfully. The state of the art equipment allowed Michigan to build the best battery it could. The EV battery welding system, for example, allowed for effective copper tabbing. Copper tabbing involves the welding of copper to the battery for the purpose of bolstering electric current, and improper execution of this welding introduces a greater chance of experiencing voltage drops. This would be detrimental during a solar race, when the car’s battery has to be as reliable as possible in order to make up for the unreliability of the energy source, the sun. GM’s equipment was precise and sophisticated enough for Michigan to create a battery pack that was light but did not sacrifice capacity. In a race with little sun and therefore less chance to charge, having a strong battery pack paid off, allowing greater storage of power.

Thank you, GM. The team appreciates all you’ve done for us.

Thank you, IBM

Together, IBM and the University of Michigan Solar Car Team push the boundaries of what is possible. IBM’s technology informs Michigan’s Strategy Division in the realms of data-driven forecasting and optimization. This partnership yields more effective real-time decision-making based on accurate predictions. The end result? A faster, more energy-efficient race.

In a solar race, solar energy intake is crucial. It dictates a large part of race strategy, affecting everything from speed to charging locations. When you depend on the sun for fuel, anything that gets between the solar array and the sun is a serious threat. Think of a sports car: no matter how sleek or well-designed a sports car is, if it can’t get to the gas station, it will never drive. For solar cars, weather poses that threat, so UM Solar’s strategy depends heavily on reading weather and reacting accordingly. That’s why IBM’s support is so important to the team.

IBM’s contribution was particularly notable during the 2016 American Solar Challenge, a solar race largely characterized by rain and clouds, rather than actual sun.

On the third day of the ASC, Michigan’s radar showed something threatening up ahead on the race route: a California-sized mass of clouds. Michigan found itself on the very edge of another storm, too, a fast-approaching one filled with thunder and lightning. The team could not risk having solar car Aurum get caught up in a storm like this; not only was it dangerous, it would mean slowing down and less access to solar energy, which would add hours onto the team’s lapsed time. Strategy had to take quick, decisive action. It had to determine when and how much to speed up in order to escape the storm.

That’s where IBM comes in.

IBM’s machine learning algorithms consolidate data from multiple sources—local weather stations, the team’s pyranometer, sensor networks, satellite observations, and more—into one coherent and readable 2D interface. The synthesis of all this data—data concerning cloud count and height, wind speed and direction, sun position, and weather event forecasts—provides Strategy with the clear picture it needs of both current and projected future solar radiation intake. This comprehensive view drives effective decision-making that cuts precious time from the team’s route.

When faced with that threatening storm on race Day 3, Strategy consulted IBM’s weather models and ran simulations; it was because of IBM that the University of Michigan succeeded in dodging the storm.

With the help of IBM’s cognitive computing technology, Michigan timed its break precisely; while the rest of the field struggled through the storm, Aurum charged ahead under bright sun—it was “the perfect strategic situation,” Operations Director Jonathan Cha says. He ascribes this success to IBM’s contribution. “The IBM model was accurate enough that we could pull off a stunt like this.”

This image highlights the strategic merit of the storm-dodging feat on Day 3 in which IBM technology was crucial; the map shows the University of Michigan far ahead of all the teams unfortunate enough to get caught in the storm that it outran.

This image highlights the strategic merit of the storm-dodging feat on Day 3 in which IBM technology was crucial; the map shows the University of Michigan far ahead of all the teams unfortunate enough to get caught in the storm that it outran.

To expand upon this, driver and Engineering Director Clayton Dailey steps back and considers the bigger picture: IBM’s importance to the team’s performance over the duration of the entire race. “Building a fast car is one thing, but being able to predict the weather is another. This is one of the key aspects that separates the good teams from the great teams,” Clayton explains. Weather can cause a fast, well-designed car to underperform relative to its potential. In the end, strategy—human decision-making—can make or break the race. IBM takes much of the guesswork out of that decision-making, allowing for more sound, informed decisions. “Without IBM’s weather models, there is no doubt that we would not have won by as large of a margin as we did.”

To illustrate why this is the case, consider the Day 3 storm. Without access to such a precise and reliable model, Michigan would have been less equipped to dodge the storm, and may have become caught in it. This would have forced Aurum to slow down and waste time in the clouds, causing it to expend valuable solar energy. All other teams experienced this, which is a large reason why Aurum won by a record 11-hour lead—and as the only car to finish the race solely on solar power.

The reach of IBM’s influence extends even further than short-term predictions; another way IBM technology played a hand in creating this 11-hour, purely sun-derived lead was with its long-term predictions.

How does it work? It’s similar to the way IBM’s technology facilitates strategic decision-making in the short-term. Yet again, instead of leaving Michigan to sift through a data dump, IBM allows direct access to the most relevant information, harnessing the power of machine learning to combine disparate data sets into one massive model. A cognitive computer takes data from various sources, like other weather prediction models and historical forecasts, and collates them into a coherent whole that provides long-term forecasts. Long-term forecasts are useful when planning hours or even days in advance, and keeps Michigan prepared. For example, the Strategy team uses this long-term forecast when choosing prime charging locations at the end of every day.

A good charging location is very open so that when the sun rises or sets at a low angle, nothing blocks the sun rays’ trajectories to the car’s solar array. Minimizing potential shading is key, and that means finding a location with the least amount of clouds and shade as possible, as well as an ideal temperature range—(too hot and the array’s efficiency falls).

While Aurum does charge on the move, stationary charging via pointing the array at the sun at the start and end of each day accounts for a significant portion of the car’s total charge. Michigan’s IBM-enabled long-range forecast capability, then, is crucial to overall race strategy.

Thanks to IBM’s cutting-edge technology, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team has continued to outperform its competition. IBM’s innovative approach to forecasting taps into the power of cognitive computing and machine learning, which opens a whole new realm of possibility—in both the short and long-term. It is in this realm of possibility that UM Solar now operates. Thank you, IBM.

Thank you, IMRA

IMRA has been a strong supporter of the University of Michigan Solar Car Team for six years.

Aurum, the car that won UM Solar its ninth American Solar Challenge title this past summer, was made possible by IMRA’s support.

IMRA’s donations allowed the team to purchase the most integral, most expensive part of the car: a state-of-the art silicon solar array. These solar cells are how Aurum charged its battery pack and fueled its journey to victory. Michigan was the only team competing in the 2016 ASC to finish the race solely on solar power, and Michigan achieved this with the power obtained by the array that IMRA’s contributions helped it obtain.

IMRA went beyond even this, helping key members of the team arrange a trip to Japan in 2014, where they met with competitor Tokai University and visited a few Japanese companies. This time in Japan helped Michigan learn more about different manufacturing processes that it would later use during Aurum’s build cycle. Visiting Toray Carbon Magic, for instance, showed Michigan how Tokai built their car’s carbon body. Michigan also forged new connections with companies like Bridgestone and Boeing Japan. IMRA was crucial in making the Japan trip a successful one, not only setting up these connections, but also providing the team with a guide.

UM Solar greatly appreciates this support, and looks forward to working with IMRA in the future. Thank you, IMRA.

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.