iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
A team led by an Indian MIT student has won first place in the recently held 2021 American Solar Challenge (ASC) on August 7 in the Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) category.
Aditya Mehrotra, the captain of the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team a rising senior in electrical engineering and computer science.
He and his team has been working hard for over three years in building the prize-winning solar vehicle.
“It’s still a little surreal,” said Mehrotra. “We were all hopeful, but I don’t think you ever go into racing like, ‘We got this.’ It’s more like, ‘We’re going to do our best and see how we fare.’ In this case, we were fortunate enough to do really well. The car worked beautifully, and — more importantly — the team worked beautifully and we learned a lot.”
During the five-day race, their solar car, Nimbus — designed and built entirely by students — beat eight other solar operated vehicles (SOVs) from schools across the country, traversing 1,109 miles and maintaining an average speed of 38.4 miles per hour.
The ASC has traditionally been a timed event. This year, however, the race was based on the total distance traveled. Each team followed the same prescribed route, from Independence, Missouri, to Las Vegas, New Mexico. But teams could drive additional miles within each of the three stages — if their battery had enough juice to continue. Nimbus surpassed the closest runner-up, the University of Kentucky, by over 100 miles.
Leading up to the three-week event, the team devoted three years to designing, building, refining, and testing Nimbus. They spent countless hours in the MIT Edgerton Center’s machine shop in Building N51, making, building, and iterating.
At the conclusion of the race, Mehotra officially stepped down and handed SEVT’s reins to its new leaders: Cameron Kokesh will take the helm as team captain, and rising sophomore Sydney Kim, an ocean engineering major, will serve as vice-captain.
Kim thinks one of the keys to the team’s success is that Nimbus is quite reliable. “We didn’t have wheels falling off on the road. Once we got the car rolling, things didn’t go wrong mechanically or electrically. Also, it’s very energy efficient because it’s lightweight and the shape of the vehicle is very aerodynamic.
The next ASC will take place in 2022, so this year the team will focus on refining Nimbus to race it again next summer. Also, they’ve set their sights on building a car to enter in the Multiple Occupancy Vehicle (MOV) class in the 2024 race — something the team has never done.
“It will definitely take the three years to build a good car to compete,” Kokesh muses. “But it’s a really good transition period, after doing so well on this race, so our team is excited about it.”