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MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team Poses With Nimbus
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MIT’s Nimbus Solar Car Wins 2021 American Solar Challenge

The MIT Solar Electrical Car Group poses with Nimbus, their photo voltaic automotive, after successful the 2021 American Solar Challenge. Credit score: Photograph courtesy of MIT SEVT

Scholar-designed Nimbus photo voltaic automotive travels 1,109 miles in 5 days, averaging 38.4 miles per hour.

After three years of arduous work, the MIT Solar Electrical Car Group took first place on the 2021 American Solar Challenge (ASC) on August 7 within the Single Occupancy Car (SOV) class. Throughout the five-day race, their photo voltaic automotive, Nimbus — designed and constructed completely by college students — beat eight different SOVs from faculties throughout the nation, traversing 1,109 miles and sustaining a mean pace of 38.4 miles per hour.

Held each two years, the ASC has historically been a timed occasion. This 12 months, nevertheless, the race was based mostly on the whole distance traveled. Every crew adopted the identical prescribed route, from Independence, Missouri, to Las Vegas, New Mexico. However groups might drive further miles inside every of the three levels — if their battery had sufficient juice to proceed. Nimbus surpassed the closest runner-up, the College of Kentucky, by over 100 miles.

MIT SEVT runs with Nimbus throughout the American Solar Challenge end line in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Credit score: American Solar Challenge

“It’s nonetheless a bit surreal,” says SEVT captain Aditya Mehrotra, a rising senior in electrical engineering and laptop science. “We have been all hopeful, however I don’t suppose you ever go into racing like, ‘We obtained this.’ It’s extra like, ‘We’re going to do our greatest and see how we fare.’ On this case, we have been lucky sufficient to do very well. The automotive labored fantastically, and — extra importantly — the crew labored fantastically and we realized loads.”

Two weeks earlier than the ASC race, every photo voltaic automotive was put via its paces within the Components Solar Grand Prix at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas. First, autos needed to carry out a sequence of qualifying challenges, referred to as “scrutineering.” Automobiles that handed might take part in a monitor race in hopes of qualifying for ASC. Nimbus positioned second, finishing a complete of 239 laps across the monitor over three days (equal to 597.5 miles).

Within the course of, SEVT member and rising junior in mechanical engineering Cameron Kokesh tied the Illinois State driver for the quickest single lap time across the monitor, clocking in at three minutes and 19 seconds. She’s not one to relaxation on her laurels, although. “It will be enjoyable to see if we might beat that point on the subsequent race,” she says with a smile.

Twelve groups together with the MIT SEVT participated within the 2021 Components Solar Grand Prix, a run-up occasion to the American Solar Challenge. Credit score: American Solar Challenge

Nimbus’s efficiency on the Components Solar Grand Prix and ASC is a manifestation of crew’s proficiency in not solely designing and constructing a superior photo voltaic automobile, however different expertise, as effectively, together with managing logistics, communications, and teamwork. “It’s an enormous operation,” says Mehrotra. “It’s not like we drive the automotive straight down the freeway through the race.”

Certainly, Nimbus travels with a powerful caravan of seven autos manned by about two dozen SEVT members. A scout automobile is on the entrance, monitoring street and climate situations, adopted by a lead automotive that oversees navigation. Nimbus is third within the caravan, trailed by a chase automobile, through which the technique crew manages duties like monitoring telemetry information, calculating how a lot energy the photo voltaic panels are producing and the remaining journey distance, and setting goal speeds. Mentioning the rear are the transport truck and trailer, a media automotive, and “Cupcake,” a help automobile with meals, provides, and tenting gear.

Nimbus races within the 2021 Components Solar Grand Prix. Credit score: Photograph courtesy of MIT SEVT

Main as much as the three-week occasion, the crew devoted three years to designing, constructing, refining, and testing Nimbus. (The ASC was scheduled for 2020, but it surely was postponed till this 12 months as a result of Covid-19 pandemic.) They spent numerous hours within the MIT Edgerton Heart’s machine store in Constructing N51, making, constructing, and iterating. They drove the automotive within the greater-Boston space, as much as Salem, Massachusetts, and to Cape Cod. Within the spring, they traveled to Palmer Motorsports Park in Palmer, Massachusetts, to observe numerous parts of the race. They carried out scrutineering duties just like the slalom take a look at and determine eight take a look at, performed crew operations coaching to optimize the caravan’s efficiency, and, after all, the “shakedown.” 

“Shakedown is simply, you drive the automotive across the monitor and also you mainly see what falls off after which what you want to repair,” Mehrotra explains. “Hopefully nothing too main falls off!”

On the conclusion of the race, Mehotra formally stepped down and handed SEVT’s reins to its new leaders: Kotesh will take the helm as crew captain, and rising sophomore Sydney Kim, an ocean engineering main, will function vice-captain. The lengthy drive again from the Midwest gave them time to replicate on the win and future plans.

Though Nimbus carried out effectively, there have been just a few instructive glitches right here and there, largely throughout scrutineering. However there was nothing the crew couldn’t deal with. For instance, the cover latch didn’t at all times maintain, so the clear acrylic bubble overlaying the motive force would pop open. (Just a little spring adjustment and tape did the trick.) As well as, Nimbus had a bent to skid when the motive force slammed on the brakes. (Driver coaching, and letting some air out of the tires, improved the traction.)

MIT SEVT (proper) and the Appalachian State Solar Car Group, winner of the multi occupant automobile class, pose with the first place trophy. Credit score: Photograph courtesy of Kyla Willoughby

Then there have been the unpredictable variables, past the crew’s management. On in the future, with little solar, Nimbus needed to chug alongside the freeway at a mere 15 miles per hour. And there was the time that the Kansas State Police pulled your complete caravan over. “They didn’t notice we have been coming via,” Mehrotra explains.

Kim thinks one of many keys to the crew’s success is that Nimbus is sort of dependable. “We didn’t have wheels falling off on the street. As soon as we obtained the automotive rolling, issues didn’t go improper mechanically or electrically. Additionally, it’s very vitality environment friendly as a result of it’s light-weight and the form of the automobile could be very aerodynamic. On a pleasant sunny day, it permits us to drive 40 miles per hour energy-neutral — the battery stays on the identical quantity of cost as we drive,” she says.

The subsequent ASC will happen in 2022, so this 12 months the crew will concentrate on refining Nimbus to race it once more subsequent summer season. Additionally, they’ve set their sights on constructing a automotive to enter within the A number of Occupancy Car (MOV) class within the 2024 race — one thing the crew has by no means executed. “It’s going to undoubtedly take the three years to construct automotive to compete,” Kokesh muses. “But it surely’s a extremely good transition interval, after doing so effectively on this race, so our crew is happy about it.”

“It is going to be difficult for them, however I wouldn’t put it something previous them,” says Patrick McAtamney, the Edgerton Heart technical teacher and store supervisor who works with all the coed golf equipment and groups, from photo voltaic autos to Components race automobiles to rockets. He attended ASC, too, and has the utmost admiration for SEVT. “It’s completely student-run. They do all of the designing and machining themselves. I at all times inform folks that generally I really feel like my solely job is to verify they’ve 10 fingers once they go away the store.”

Within the meantime, earlier than the varsity 12 months begins, SEVT has one other problem: deciding the place to place the trophy. “It’s large,” McAtamney says. “It’s concerning the measurement of the Stanley Cup!”

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