Is this the future of solar cars?

As the days countdown to the upcoming World Solar Challenge in Australia, in which college student solar car teams race 3000 km across the Outback, the number of vehicles being unveiled continues to creep up. One of the latest is from the University of Minnesota, which took the wraps off its Daedalus entry last Thursday.

Entered into the Cruiser class of the Challenge, it will be going up in a friendly competition against other solar powered vehicles such as the Eindhoven University of Technology’s family focused Stella. Daedalus isn’t nearly as large as the Eindhoven entry, however, sitting only two passengers instead of four  and luggage.

University of Michigan Solar Vehicle Project’s Daedalus (image via UMSVP)

Key technical specifications of this solar car include student build and custom-designed dual electric motors capable of 100 Nm, a 16.2 killowatt hour lithium-ion battery and 391 solar cells with a 1300 W rating. When you put this all together you end up with a rather decent sun-powered racer that can hit a top speed of 90 MPH (electronically controlled to 80 MPH) and cruise a maximum range at night of up to 480 miles.

University of Minnesota has a rather long history racing in solar cars, building its first vehicle for a 1993 competition. Multiple sub-teams of students, focused on different disciplines but all with engineering backgrounds, coordinate to help bring vehicles such as the Daedalus to life. The current round finds more than 30 individuals involved, carrying on a legacy of success that includes a first place victory at the 2011 American Solar Challenge’s Formula Sun Grand Prix track race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, among others.

Other recently unveiled solar vehicles among the 45 teams competing from around the world include the likes of CambridgeDelft University of Technology, Stanford UniversityUniversity of Michigan and University of Toronto.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling