Chicago Solar-Powered Cars Race Begins

July 13, 2003 by Jeff Shepard

The American Solar Challenge started in front of the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, IL, on July 13, 2003, in a 2,300-mile race that will end in about 10 days in Claremont, CA. Drivers will spend most of their time on the way to California on historic Route 66.

The race, sponsored in part by the US Department of Energy, features cars that are years and, in some cases, well over $100,000 in the making. Made of the lightest and strongest materials the students can find, including the Kevlar used to make bulletproof vests, the cars can weigh as little as 400lbs.

The cars' sleek bodies rest just inches off the ground, allowing them to slice through the wind efficiently. The vehicles are powered by the 3,000 or so small solar cells that cover them. They can easily travel over 50mph and can climb past 70mph under the right conditions.