University of Michigan Solar Car Team looking to make Quantum leap

Photo Courtesy of the UM Solar Team, who will begin competing in the American Solar Challenge this weekend

Everyone knows the University of Michigan is steeped in athletic prowess, but some students are preparing to defend a very different title.

The U of M Solar Car Team is headed to Austin, Texas this weekend for the American Solar Challenge. It’s an eight-day, 1,700 mile race spanning the map from Lone Star State to Minneapolis.

The pressure is on for this year’s team, which is looking to win its fifth consecutive trophy.

“Seven national championships, five top three world finishes, and you look at yourself and you’re like ‘Oh, I’ve got to beat them, I’ve got to do better than that,'” remarked Pavan Naik, Project Manager for UM Solar.

But, it looks like the team has a good shot at doing just that. They’ve put together a cutting edge electric vehicle named Quantum.

“It’s easy to design just a steering wheel that works really well. It’s easy to design an isolated suspension that works really well. It’s easy to design a braking system that works really well by itself. But, bringing it together is really the hard part,” noted Arnold Kadiu, Engineering Manager for UM Solar.

They seem to have hit the mark with Quantum, which took first place in the American Challenge in 2012 and third in the World Solar Challenge in 2011.

The car has three wheels, weighs only 320 pounds, and uses about the same amount of energy as a hair dryer. Nearly 20 students from various disciplines round out the crew for this year’s race.