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July 23, 2012 - Source : NEWS

Eight-day, 2,575-km race across eight American states, and a unique adventure to share!

For the first time in its history, the Esteban prototype, a solar-powered vehicle entirely designed and built by Polytechnique Montréal students alongside their engineering studies, qualified at the Formula Sun Grand Prix. This allowed it to then take part in the American Solar Challenge, the solar-powered vehicle race with the most stringent selection criteria in the world. Esteban VI ranked in 9th position of the 11 vehicles that qualified for the race, ahead of MIT and New Paltz. Sixteen university teams took part.

Led by Laurence Lebel, the Polytechnique team drove more than 2,575 kilometres on board its solar race car, from Rochester, N.Y. to Saint Paul, Minn., over the eight days of the competition, which ran from July 14 to 21 across eight American states. The Canadian delegation also won the award for best teamwork and the award for strongest solar panel power, in a tie with the winning team from the University of Michigan. On July 12, the Polytechnique team notched a major success in the qualifying round, completing 109 laps (105 were mandatory).

The students had to demonstrate great ingenuity during the competition, as they were facing American teams with much larger budgets than their own. The delegation hit several snags along the route. First, the end of a wheel axle broke during the qualifying rounds, because of wear and tear. The team was able to replace it using equipment provided by four other universities, which were very generous with their materials and time! The fairings for the front wheels – the envelopes in which the wheels are located – were also damaged, which greatly reduced the car's aerodynamic capacity.

“We dealt with a lot of bad weather. The clouds forced us to slow down so we wouldn't drain the battery, and rain caused us to come to a full halt for a few hours in order not to risk skidding or losing control,” said Gabriel Brassard, Finance Manager, upon his return from the competition. Also, the car was much heavier than those of the other top teams, and so had to be revisited. The battery safety system was too sensitive, and cut the current when it was well below overheating temperature. A few all-nighters later, and the problem was solved.

The team is now evaluating the possibility of competing in the Green Global Challenge in fall 2013 in Australia. With the announcement of a number of changes in construction standards, the solar vehicle will require several modifications. The engine, which dates to 1998, is clearly a priority, since it has lost a significant percentage of its efficiency with time, which explains in good part the difference in performance with the race winners, despite having more efficient solar panels. The construction of the next prototype will get underway starting late next month.

Photos are available on the Esteban website:
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To see the general rankings for the ASP:

Suggested Reading

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Esteban VII, first Canadian team since 2003 to reach the top ranks of the legendary American Solar Challenge competition  |  Read
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A fourth day of racing for Esteban, Polytechnique Montréal's solar-powered car, in the American Solar Challenge  |  Read