Illini Solar Car is a multidisciplinary student team who design and build solar cars to race in cross-country solar races such as the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge. The cross-country races allow students to apply their technical knowledge to build a road-worthy car and provide opportunities for them to learn soft skills in managing race logistics, and raising funds.

Most of the car systems are designed and built in-house. Components include the maximum power point tracker—It’s 98.75% efficient and 10 times lighter than the competition, a battery management system to protect the 20kg lithium-ion battery pack, a driver interface allowing the driver to control the car, the solar array (soldered and encapsulated in the clean room), and the carbon fiber semi-monocoque that keeps the car lightweight. The overall system, combining all the above components, is integrated and improved to make the car as efficient and reliable as possible. As the race is ultimately about efficiency, all aspects are continuously being optimized.

The team is currently is in its fourth year and working on our second car. Our first, Argo, was completed in August of 2017. We participated in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and placed 7th in the 2018 American Solar Challenge. At these competitions, we compete with teams from other top universities such as MIT, Stanford University, University of California – Berkeley, and University of Michigan.

Illini Solar Car is advised and supported by Prof. Arijit Banerjee, and Prof. Philpott of Mechanical Engineering. More than 50 undergraduate students from various departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering, as well as the Gies College of Business, are actively involved. The project is sponsored by various companies, alumni, and on-campus entities, including 3M, Siemens, Molex, General Electric, Chevron Phillips Chemical, the Student Sustainability Committee, and the ECE Department.

Figure 1: 2018 American Solar Challenge: Argo from Omaha to Bend, Oregon