Purdue Solar Racing is a student organization committed to two philosophies: Building and racing a competitive solar powered vehicle and educating the public about the possibilities of renewable energy. Through teamwork and innovation each team member will gain knowledge in every aspect of the vehicle while helping the world take a step in the right direction for meeting our future energy needs.
History of Purdue Solar Racing
|Purdue University’s venture into the competitive field of solar racing began in 1991, with a dedicated group of students’ determined to build a car capable of competing in Sunrayce 1993 (the major collegiate solar car race). Although inexperienced and small, the members began a trend with incredible capacities. Sunracye 93 ended shortly in disappointment when the team failed to qualify for the race. This, however, was a building point and a chance to learn. Two years and hundreds of hours of engineering and construction later, the team successfully qualified for Sunrayce 95. Heliophile 1.5 (Greek for “Lover of the Sun”) finished a very respectable seventeenth out of forty participating teams.Building on the success of 1995, the team opted to focus on improved aerodynamics for the 1997 Sunrayce. Although resulting in a disappointing finish, the knowledge gained regarding solar car aerodynamics and composite construction would be of significant benefit in the future.
The members of PSR returned to the drafting boards for the third major redesign of the Heliophile concept. Following a cycle of development and testing, Purdue was ready to compete. The 1999 race would represent significant improvement for PSR. Heliophile Pi was one of the lightest vehicles in the race. Considering the low power available for propelling a solar car, every ounce of weight matters. Information in lightweight design and construction proved invaluable to the team. During the race, Pi had the best segment finishes of sixth and twelfth – a best ever for PSR. Additionally, PSR was awarded the Sportsmanship Award for the helpful hand lent to Ohio State after an accident.
Starting in 2001, Sunrayce was renamed the American Solar Challenge (ASC). PSR chose to sit-out the 2001 race to allow for more design and component testing of the next vehicle, S.P.O.T. (Solar Powered Overland Transportation). S.P.O.T. represented a quantum leap in both design and construction for PSR. Building on the experiences from Heliophile 2.5 and Pi, S.P.O.T. represented a marked improvement in ruggedness, aerodynamics, and composite construction.
For the first time, the chassis of a Purdue solar car was made of composites. Other improvements in wiring, structural design, and composite techniques resulted in the most efficient vehicle PSR had ever created. The clean aerodynamic shape of S.P.O.T.’s body and the ruggedness of the running gear allowed PSR to cruise at speeds upwards of 45 MPH while traveling over 2,000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Overcoming technical issues along the race, PSR placed an overall l3 out of the 20 teams that qualified for the race. In addition to this best ever race finish for PSR, the team was awarded the “0-66” Award for the most improvement during the race. ASC 2003 was a learning experience for the team – learning how to create a reliable vehicle and how to work as a pit crew and overcome adversity while racing a premier solar car.
S.P.O.T. II built directly upon the successes of the S.P.O.T. vehicle, preparing to boost PSR to a new level. Mirroring S.P.O.T. in many aspects, S.P.O.T. II truly represented an evolved and optimized design. The engineering and construction of the vehicle set new standards in solar racing, creating one of the lightest yet robust solar cars to date. Although performing well in initial testing, the team was unable to qualify for the 2005 ASC due to a last-minute electrical problem. Notwithstanding, S.P.O.T. II represented a revolution in lightweight solar car construction (including the first all carbon fiber body combined with a second generation composite chassis), and its continued excellence is the baseline for PSR’s seventh car, PULSAR (Purdue Ultra-Light Solar Racer).
PULSAR raced in the 2008 Shell Eco-Marathon, winning the Solar Division and posting the highest overall efficiency. PULSAR’s efficiency of 2861.8 mpg was calculated from the amount of energy used by the motor during the race.
Following the race, PULSAR underwent several modifications, including the installation of a new motor, redesigned steering and suspension systems, and the addition of real-time monitoring systems. These changes allowed PULSAR to repeat its success at the 2009 Shell Eco-Marathon. PULSAR achieved an efficiency of 4913 mpg.
In 2010, the Shell Eco-Marathon was moved to a new, more urban location, in the center of Houston, Texas. The new course provided more challenges than the track in Fontana, California, with sharper turns, more congestion on the track, and less than ideal road conditions. PULSAR won first place in the Solar Division, with 4578 mpg, the highest overall efficiency at the race. PSR also won two other awards, the Technical Innovation Award and the Communication Award. The Technical Innovation Award was recognition of the team’s patent pending carbon fiber layup process and telemetry systems. The Communications Award was for PSR’s dedication to outreach events, teaching the community about solar racing and renewable energy, including meeting with the Indiana state legislation at the Indiana State House. The 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon was an incredible success for PSR, rewarding the team’s hard work and dedication to engineering complex technologies and educating the public through outreach projects.
Celeritas is PSR’s newest car. Celeritas competed in the 2011 Shell Eco-Marathon, as Purdue Solar Racing’s first Urban Concept Vehicle. Celeritas had great success with an equivalent mpg of 2,175, and won the Solar Urban Concept category. Celeritas also completed in the 2012 Shell Eco-Marathon and again won the Solar Urban Concept category, achieving an improved mileage of 2,250 mpg. The team is currently designing and building its 9th car.