This March, Forbes magazine’s automotive reviewers Matthew de Paula and Hannah Elliott walked away from their test drive of New Paltz’s solar car Sunhawk calling it “spectacular” and “a bellwether for…the future of motoring” (de Paula). Not only were they impressed with the elegant lines and design of the car itself, but also with the dedication of the solar car team comprising faculty, staff and students who planned, built and raced the car. They commented on last year’s success in the 1,200 mile road race of the American Solar Challenge. This event is highly competitive and draws teams from all the major engineering schools in the nation and from prestigious schools abroad.
Regarding the test drive, de Paula said “And what a privilege it was. Driving the Sunhawk around the campus’ winding roads was so thrilling it even overshadowed the time I spent behind the wheel of a $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron several years back.”
Elliott was equally enthusiastic and discussed the future of the solar powered car with Otis and Vincent Cozzolino, the founder of The Solar Energy Consortium which has partnered with SUNY to make the car. Both agree solar energy is reliable, efficient and a viable alternative for the future of automotive transport in the world.
New Paltz’s electrical and computer engineering students showcased their ingenuity, vision and sense of adventure last year when the solar car team finished eighth out of 17 in the American Solar Challenge’s road race of 1,200 miles. They raced from the grassy plains of Tulsa, Oklahoma to the lofty skyscrapers of Chicago in their three-wheeled, hand-crafted solar car built from carbon fiber, Kevlar, Nomex and aluminum.
In addition, they earned the 2010 Specialty Teamwork Award. The citation read, “Teamwork recognizes the team that worked together exceptionally well. From the track to on the road, the New Paltz team was always supporting each other and learning new things together as they competed in their first American Solar Challenge this year.”
Team leader Michael Otis, an instructor in electrical and computer engineering, noted that not only did the team excel by even qualifying for the largest international solar car racing event in the country, but securing 8th spot in a field that had teams from powerhouse programs such as The University of Michigan, University of Minnesota and Stanford University and abroad was very impressive. “We were definitely the underdog,” said Otis.
Founded in 2007, the New Paltz solar car team exemplifies the creative power of public-private partnerships. The Solar Car Team is sponsored by the New Paltz Student Association, School of Science and Engineering and local industries and businesses including the Solar Energy Consortium. The College’s electrical engineering program leads this student-run club. Students from other majors are also involved in the project to raise renewable energy awareness, raise money, market, research and develop solar-powered electric vehicles targeted for competition.
There are approximately 40 student club members, along with advisers for each leader of a department on the team. Team organizer, Josh Fino, said that even more rewarding than finishing the event was earning the 2010 Specialty Teamwork Award.
“Teamwork is something which, even when people practice, can be elusive,” said Fino. “Teamwork, to anyone that has never experienced it, can be difficult to describe. We were a well-oiled machine. Each of us assumed specific roles and responsibilities suited to our unique strengths and we performed those roles without question and chaos to the fullest of our abilities.”
“To know that I was part of something so well organized and functional is something that I will never forget. And that feeling of everyone moving in harmony to accomplish what some said was impossible is empowering,” said Fino.
Follow the solar car team at http://www.facebook.com/pages/SUNY-New-Paltz-Solar-Car-Team/146513335543
Members of the 2010 Solar Car Racing Team competing in the American Solar Car Challenge were:
• Jessica Abrams ’13 – Composite / Electrical
• Frank Cabe '12 – Composite /Driver
• Lee Cabe – Consultant
• Josu Cabruja ’11 – Mechanical / Driver
• Patrick Cody ’11 – Mechanical / Electrical
• Kira Cozzolino ’13 – Marketing / Fundraising / Project Management
• Joshua Fino ’10 – Organization / Coordination / Composite / Electrical
• Courtney Lia ’10 – Mechanical / Electrical
• Frank Ling ’12 – Composite / Iron Man (tires)
• Kevin Krummel ’10 – Composite / Driver
• John Mueller ’10 – Mechanical / Electrical
• Karen Ortiz ’12 – Electrical
• Benjamin Rounds ’11 – Design / Electrical / Mechanical
• Luke Stover ’12 – Composite / Mechanical / Driver
• Ray Williams ’12 – Mechanical