Illini Solar Car is a team of multidisciplinary students who designs and builds solar cars to race in cross-country solar races like the World Solar Challenge and the American Solar Challenge. The cross-country races not only allow students to apply their technical knowledge to build a road-worthy car, they also provide opportunities for them to learn soft skills in managing race logistics, and raising funds. More than 50 undergraduate students from various departments, such as the Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering departments, as well as the Gies College of Business are actively involved in this project.
Most systems on the car are designed and built in-house. Some of the components include the maximum power point tracker that is 98.75% efficient and ten times lighter than the competition, the battery management system that protects the 20kg lithium-ion battery pack, the driver interface that allows the driver to control the car, the solar array that’s soldered and encapsulated in the clean room, and the carbon-fiber semi-monocoque that makes a lightweight car. The overall system, which is a combination of all the components above, is integrated and improved to make the car as efficient and reliable as possible. The race is ultimately about efficiency, so all aspects are continuously being optimized. The project is sponsored by various companies, alumni, and on-campus entities like 3M, Siemens, Molex, General Electric, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Student Sustainability Committee, and the ECE department.