Team Sunergy unveils new solar vehicle

Cristian McLaughlin, Business Manager

The App State solar vehicle team, Team Sunergy, unveiled their new solar racing vehicle at an event held in the Holmes Convocation Center on Friday. The new solar car, named “Running on Solar Energy,” or R.O.S.E., was completely designed and built by App State students.

R.O.S.E is the team’s second solar racing car and their first cruiser-class solar vehicle. One of the biggest differences of a cruiser-class vehicle is that it seats multiple people. This is different from Team Sunergy’s first solar car, which was a single-person challenger-class vehicle, Kali Smith, business director for Team Sunergy, said.

“The other big difference is how the cars are judged. For challengers, you are just racing to be the fastest,” Smith said. “For cruisers, practicality goes into the judging alongside the speed component things like “can it parallel park? Is it comfortable to sit in? Is there storage space?”

There is also a third category of adventure-class vehicles, but they are strictly non-competitive.

The solar car was displayed to alumni, donors and various faculty and staff who attended, including Chancellor Sheri Everts.

“Because we are committed to changing the world for the better, the university has empowered the team’s passion around changing the face of transportation,” Everts said. “In turn, the team’s dedication and success serve as examples of how intentional, forward-thinking citizens who focus their abilities on change can make a measurable difference.”

The event has been nearly a year in the making for the team, who were officially able to show off the new vehicle on Friday.

“It feels great. It is a significant milestone for us,” Dan Blakeley, Team Sunergy founder and executive faculty director, said.

Blakely said that the success of the new vehicle would not be possible without the support of faculty and staff around campus.

He detailed how staff from several departments, such as purchasing and facilities, have all helped the team in the creation of this new solar vehicle in different ways, from providing storage space for the team on campus to helping them find new potential sponsors.

“Even the car got painted by (the university’s) motor pool, so it’s a really integrated project within all of the university,” Blakely said.

“There is some ‘guts’ of the car that we got to finalize, approve and test to make sure everything is working properly,” Blakely said. “So that is where a majority of our effort is going to go over this next week and a half.”

The team will be working hard in the next few weeks to finish the final touches, Blakely said, so they can be ready for their first official race with the new vehicle.

The first race the team plans to enter R.O.S.E into is the Formula Sun Grand Prix, which will occur from July 10-12. This race will act as the qualifier for the American Solar Challenge, a national solar vehicle competition. The ASC will take place from July 14-22 and would see the team race across 4 states, from Nebraska to Oregon.

Blakely said that the team has three main goals with this new vehicle. The first, he said, he believes was already achieved based on the reactions at the unveiling, which was to “present a car that is fully solar powered, but people look at it and say ‘wow, this is a beautiful car, I could see myself driving it.’”

The second is “to be incredibly competitive,” which he said he believes they will be.

“We designed around the competition, we bought the best technology to install in the car (and) we really built up the team to learn that technology, understand how to use and improve it,” Blakely said.

The third goal is for the team to have learned from the design and build of this car, so that moving forward they will be able to create a cyclical process where they are able to create a new car every two years, or less, Blakely said.

“(They) will be designing and building for the next generation,” Blakely said.

Story By: Cristian McLaughlin, Business Manager

Featured Photo Caption: Team Sunergy stands around the new single-person challenger-class vehicle called “Running on Solar Energy,” or R.O.S.E, during its unveiling on Friday.