Solar-power vehicles arrive in Topeka to compete in Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix

Live at Five
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 6:38 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Some solar-powered cars arrived at Topeka’s Heartland Motorsports Park a few days before hitting the tracks in the Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix 2023.

Students representing 11 universities across the United States and Canada will compete in a three-day event to test each universities’ personally designed solar-powered vehicles.

On Tuesday, June 27, each vehicle underwent scrutineering — or inspections — to check the vehicle’s mechanical and electrical systems, body and size, dynamic testing, and many other pre-checks to ensure the car is clear to run.

The cars will lap around the track on Friday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., then July 1 through July 2, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each car will drive eight hours Friday through Sunday — equaling 24 hours of driving time. The vehicle that completes the most laps over that time is named the winner.

Before the car heads to the track, each vehicle will be allowed time to recharge their car’s batteries during the morning and evening.

Gail Lueck, the event director of the Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix 2023, said that admission is free and there will be free parking available. Lueck said designing and building such a vehicle takes roughly two years.

“These are all university students,” said Lueck. “So, in addition to all their academics, they have also been designing and building a solar power vehicle. Nominally, it is about a two-year process to design and build these vehicles and prepare to come to competition.”

Lueck noted that the objective of the Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix is strategic energy management, adjusting to weather conditions, and reliability instead of raw speed like typical races.

The teams will compete in two classes: a single-occupant vehicle class with space only for the driver and a multi-occupant vehicle class capable of transporting passengers and cargo.

Electrek is the title sponsor of the Grand Prix. It is a news and commentary site that analyzes and reports the latest on the transition from fossil fuel to electric transportation and other green energy initiatives.

The teams competing in the 2023 Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix:

  • The University of Florida (U.S.A.) - Sunrider
  • Dalhousie University (Canada) - NOVA
  • Northwestern University (U.S.A.) - SC7s
  • Illinois State University (U.S.A.) - Mercury 6
  • Principia College (U.S.A.) - RA XI
  • Polytechnique Montreal (Canada) - Esteban 10
  • University of Virginia (U.S.A.) - Rivanna 2s
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (U.S.A.) - Helios
  • Ohio State University (U.S.A.) - Fasari II
  • Western Michigan University (U.S.A.) - Sunseeker 23
  • Appalachian State University (U.S.A.) - Rose