National solar car event comes to Lander Pioneer Museum July 13 & 14

(Lander, WY) – A major national car event is coming to Lander July 13-14. The American Solar Car Challenge features teams from colleges across the country, racing to see who can complete the race first.

This year, the race follows the route of the Oregon Trail and will cross Wyoming. The race starts in Independence, Missouri, and ends in Twin Falls, Idaho, a journey of 1470 miles. The cars and teams will cross Wyoming, arriving at the Lander Pioneer Museum Tuesday, July 13, from around 1 pm to 6 pm. They head out over South Pass for Idaho the morning of Wednesday, July 14. Lander is their only overnight stop in Wyoming.

The 21+ teams will display their cars and greet the public the afternoon and the evening of the 13th. On the morning of the 14th, they will queue up and head out on the next leg of the race. The starting line is the front of the Lander Pioneer Museum. The event is free and open to the public, and people are encouraged to come and meet the teams, look over the cars and then cheer them as they head off Thursday morning.

“This is a huge national event coming to our town and Wyoming,” said Museum Curator Randy Wise. “We expect 300 people involved with the race to be here, with teams from all over America and Canada.”

The event is being partially sponsored by the National Park Service to help recognize the National Trails System and the Oregon Trail.

The stop in Lander will give residents and visitors the unique opportunity to see the solar cars, meet the teams, and celebrate the journey of these new solar car “pioneers” along the trail. National Park Service rangers will provide fun activities and information about seeing the ruts and swales of the Oregon Trail.

Every two years, the Innovators Educational Foundation (IEF) organizes the American Solar Challenge, a collegiate student design competition to design, build, and drive solar-powered vehicles in a cross-country event. In 2022, teams will have the opportunity to drive additional loops in certain locations along the route to increase their distance, further showcasing the capabilities of their energy-efficient vehicles.

Teams are split into two classes: the traditional single-occupant vehicles with space only for the driver and the newer multi-occupant vehicles, which are scored on their practical features in addition to their performance on the road. The week prior to the American Solar Challenge, all solar cars will go through a scrutineering and qualifying process, resulting in a final team list for the event.

The American Solar Challenge (ASC) is a multi-day, 1,500-2,000 mile cross-country endurance rally across North America. The event is typically held every other year during the summer and is open to collegiate-level solar car teams from countries all over the world. The routes have varied greatly over the course of the event’s rich history, but they are always designed to provide teams with a great opportunity to demonstrate their solar cars under real-world driving conditions and thoroughly test the reliability of all onboard systems.

Successfully completing the ASC competition is a hugely rewarding accomplishment, but it requires over a year of intense focus and hard work from every team that enters the race and there is no shortage of hurdles to overcome along the way. Teams must first design and build a solar-powered vehicle that meets every requirement set forth in the regulations. They are required to submit vehicle design reports and other documentation to race officials prior to the event for approval. The best teams will conduct as much testing and optimization of their vehicle as possible before the racing starts. When teams arrive on-site for the event, their first task is to pass Scrutineering inspections where race officials closely inspect every aspect of their vehicle to ensure full compliance with the regulations. Cars that pass Scrutineering move on to the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) track race, where they must complete a pre-determined number of laps with multiple drivers to qualify for ASC.

Teams that make it safely this far have proved their solar cars are ready to attempt the cross-country journey. However, ASC presents a whole new set of challenges than FSGP and requires a strategy to be adjusted accordingly. The mix of city and highway driving on public roads of varying conditions makes careful energy management critical. As with FSGP, teams must carefully monitor weather patterns and adjust driving strategy accordingly, however, the longer duration of the race makes it more likely that a wide range of weather conditions will be encountered. Teams must also ensure that they follow the race route precisely and obey all the rules of the road or they risk costly time penalties. ASC is intended to test the reliability and endurance of all solar car systems. Teams often have to get creative in solving issues along the way since there aren’t as many resources on the side of a highway as there are at the race track.

The winner of ASC is determined by the total elapsed time to complete the race route.

For more information on the race, the teams, and the route contact Gail Lueck, Event Director at [email protected] For information about the Lander stop at the museum call 307-332-3373 or check out the museum’s FB page at Pioneer Museum Lander Wyoming.

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