A group of McMaster engineering students is determined to make the school’s fasted solar car yet.
The McMaster Solar Car Project started in 1999. It has had a roster of students from all the different streams of engineering. It builds solar energy powered cars to race in competitions held roughly every two years. $1.07 from full-time undergraduate student fees goes towards the project.
The most recent undertaking of the group is the Spitfire, a car projected to reach highway speeds while, in the spirit of the project, consuming a very negligible amount of energy.
The braking system planned for installation converts part of the braking energy into electrical energy, which will be used to fuel the battery of the car instead of dissipating into the atmosphere.
The battery can store 3.8kWH energy, so that it can be used for longer amounts of time. With features like this, the car is designed with the idea of sustainability in mind.
The Spitfire is projected to be complete by summer 2014, making it the fifth car in the club’s repertoire.
“It usually takes about two years to build a car from scratch,” explained David Drake, the project manager of the group working on the Spitfire. Drake, a fourth-year Electrical and Computer Engineering student, summarizes the responsibilities of his position in the group as not only working on the car itself but performing non-engineering tasks such as finance management, networking and artistic designing.
“Engineers cannot do what artists can do,” said Nabeel Tariq, associate member of the group. He stressed that the project encourages people from different fields to come together.
“Everyone assumes that if you are building something you have to be in engineering. Totally not true,” said Drake.
“We give a lot of technical tutorials for engineers and non-engineers,” said John Diller, another associate member of the project. He explained that these cater to people who might want technical skills, but are not necessarily interested in the car itself.
While the Solar Car project has in its history been focused on the vehicle itself, the group members see it as a platform for bigger things.
“Through the club, we can spread more awareness about solar energy, ” said Tariq.