Illini Solar Car is a multidisciplinary team of students who design and build solar cars to race in cross-country solar races like the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge. These races allow students both to apply their technical knowledge to build a road-worthy car and learn soft skills in managing race logistics, such as raising funds. The team, currently in its third year, aims to compete in the World Solar Challenge this October along with teams from other top universities such as MIT, Stanford University, the University of California- Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. The future goal is to build road-worthy and practical multiple-seater solar cars.
Most of the car’s components are designed and built in-house. These include the maximum power point tracker (98.75% efficient and 10 times lighter than the competition), the battery protection system (for the 20 kg lithium-ion battery pack), the motor controller (controls the 95% efficiency wheel hub motors), the solar array (soldered and encapsulated in the clean room), and the carbon fiber semi-monocoque. These components are integrated and adjusted to make the car efficient, reliable, and lightweight (the car is expected to weigh only 375 lbs.).
Professors Pilawa and Philpott, in Mechanical Engineering, are advising the team composed of more than 50 actively involved students from various departments, such as the Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering. Graduate students Derek Chou and Phuc Huynh (see their research summaries below) are working with the mostly undergraduate team.
This project is sponsored by various companies, including 3M, Siemens, Molex, General Electric, Chevron, and Phillips Chemical; alumni, and on-campus entities, including the University of Illinois Student Sustainability Committee, the ECE Department, and the Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics.