Illinois State’s Solar Car Team is taking to the road for the American Solar Challenge (ASC), a multi-day, 1,700-mile cross-country road race across North America.

Open to teams from around the world, the ASC is an annual competition for college students to design, build and race solar-powered cars. This year’s event will stretch from Austin, Texas, to St. Paul, Minn. Faculty and staff can follow the progress of the team with daily posts on their Facebook page.

The ASC alternates annually between an open-road challenge and the closed-course Grand Prix. Illinois State University’s Solar Car Team has been building and racing solar-powered cars since 2005. The team placed second last year in the closed-course grand prix, and seventh in the 1,650-mile, open-road race in 2012. And that is without the million-dollar budgets some other teams have with support from car manufacturers.

As in years past, the Illinois State team of students designed and built the solar-powered vehicle, known as Mercury V, and will face eight punishing days on the road during the race.

“A race like this shows you how many things can go wrong,” said team Vice President Mike Rose, who helped design the car. Rose, a renewable energy major, has served on the team for the last three years. “It’s exciting to see a car brought to life from designs, and then see how successful it is on the road.”

The annual competition challenges college students to design, build and race solar-powered cars. The Illinois State Solar Car team takes a year to design and build the vehicle. “We have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into this car and we have high expectations for ourselves as a team and for Merc 5 as well,” said Sarah Noll, president of this year’s team.

This year’s Illinois State University car will feature a move from three tires to four, and the inclusion of two lighter “hub” motors, as opposed to the previous chain-drive motor. “We also have a new encapsulating process for the solar cells which means we’ll be able to gather more power from the sun,” said Rose.

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