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Solar Vehicle Team Preps for Contests


Indranath Neogy--The Tech
Stephen M. Zoepf '01, Jimmie D. Walker III '99, Chris E. Carr '98 and Carlos A. Araque '01 (left to right) work on the chasis of the Manta car that crashed in Sunrayce '97.

By Jennifer Chung
Associate News editor

The Solar Electric Vehicle Team recently moved into new lab space near UniversityPark and Central Square.

The team used to occupy space in Building 20, but because that building is being demolished, the SEVT needed to move to another facility. The new space is being leased from the MIT Real Estate office, said Dingli Chen '99, SEVTsponsorship coordinator.

The new laboratory is a former auto body shop, essentially a large garage with one giant workroom containing past vehicles, body molds for the current vehicle, and the current vehicle. It also has a large room for electronics and the solar array and a smaller office which also serves as a trophy room.

"We finally have our own space with room to fit everything," said Christopher E. Carr '98 the team's president.

In memory of the team's occupation of Building 20, members of the SEVT will display past team vehicles and educate about solar electric vehicles at the Building 20 demolition ceremony during Spring Break.

SEVTPrepares Manta GT

The SEVT is currently working on preparing last year's vehicle, the Manta GT, for three races in Japan this summer.

Originally, the team had also planned to attend the World Solar Challenge in Australia in October. However, "the World Solar Challenge is delayed until 1999, because [the race organizers] were not able to secure a major sponsor," said Alexander S. Yip '01, the team's secretary.

In preparation for the races in Japan, the team is making major modifications to the Manta GT to increase its efficiency and robustness. The solar array on the Manta GT needs to be replaced due to an accident involving the trailer carrying the Manta GT the day after Sunrayce '97. Other portions of Manta GT will also be completely redone, and the team is having an informal contest to rename the resulting vehicle.

"The body was damaged in the accident,"added Jacinda L. Clemenzi '01, the leader of the body group. Since the body is made of composites, things "need to be reglued," said Clemenzi.

Team to Attend Summer Races

The first of the races that the SEVT plans on attending is "the World Solar Rally in Akita,"Carr said.

The track at Akita has a 31 km perimeter and was a former lake that was land-reclaimed, Carr said. "This is a race and publicity event for solar and electric cars. There's participation by lots of different classes of vehicles," including traditional vehicles and bicycles, he added. Akita is a 3-day endurance race involving approximately 8 hours of racing a day. "Tracks in Japan are apparently very long and fast," said Jimmie D. Walker '99, a member of the team.

The SEVT would have goneto the second race at Suzuka last year, but the accident involving its vehicle derailed its plans, Carr said.

"I'm excited. This will be my first time to Japan - my first time out of the country,"said Walker.

The third and last race in Japan that the SEVT plans to attend this August is at Shishika, said Chen. Japanese sponsors are arranging to transport the team's vehicle and are finding accommodations for some of the team members while they are at Shishika, added Chen.

Members Attend Other Events

In addition to the races in August, the SEVT will also be sending several members to represent MIT at Econo Move, an endurance race for electric vehicles at the Akita site in May.

Econo Move will be providing the SEVT with a purely electric vehicle during the event. The race is partly a publicity event, but it's also "an opportunity to allow students to see theAkita track earlier," said Clemenzi.

Additionally, several members of the SEVT will attend workshops in Atlanta, Georgia during the last weekend of Spring Break. The workshop, sponsored by the race organizers for the popular Sunrayce '99 competition held every two years, is designed to inform teams about certain rules and regulations involving solar vehicles. It will also give new team members more experience and a better idea of what racing is like. Before going to Atlanta, the team will repair its current vehicle for competition.