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Solar Electric Vehicle Team Places Sixth In 1,800-Mile World Solar Challenge Race

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The Oct. 7 version of this article omitted the name of one team member. He is Alexander K. Hayman ’08.

By Angeline Wang
STAFF REPORTER

MIT’s Solar Electric Vehicle Team finished the 2005 World Solar Challenge in sixth place out of 22 teams despite racing with a damaged car. The MIT team covered 1,800 miles in 40 hours.

The biennial competition began on Sept. 25 in Darwin, Australia and led teams across the country. A team from the Netherlands won this year’s race; the top U.S. finisher was the third place University of Michigan team.

The SEVT car, Tesseract, was damaged during a qualifying lap when one of the drivers took a hard turn, said Chris R. Pentacoff ’06, the team’s main driver. The car flipped and slid, resulting in the loss of about 40 percent of Tesseract’s solar array and damage to the body. This left the car with 1,000 Watts of power, still average for cars in the race.

“The first few minutes after the accident were tense,” said team member Anna S. Jaffe ’08. “Once we were confident that the driver was safe and found that the car was mechanically sound, we voted unanimously to keep the team in the game.”

“Considering the severe damage that our car sustained a mere 21 hours before the race started, I think we did incredibly well,” Pentacoff said. “Most everyone doubted that we could even finish the race, much less beat cars that had twice as much power. I guess we proved them wrong.”

MIT still holds the record for the shortest North American solar car finishing time in the race, said team leader Peter K. Augenbergs. The third place University of Michigan team did not best MIT’s time of 32 hours 54 minutes from the 2003 race, when SEVT placed third.

The SEVT team members returned earlier this week, making plans for the 2007 race already.

“The 2007 project will be an entirely new design,” Augenbergs said. “But in order to streamline testing and debugging, we will install the new electronics on [Tesseract] for testing.”

Other team members included Benjamin W. Glass ’07, Alex C. MeVay ’02, Adam R. Vaccaro ’07, and James M. Harvey ’05.

The team also received the John Hoerner Spirit of the Race Award, Augenbergs said.