SUNY New Paltz Solar Car attempts to eclipse world speed record

NEW PALTZ – New Paltz’s Solar Car Racing Team is setting its sights high again after recent awards and favorable coverage by Forbes magazine. This time, the team’s goal is to claim the world’s fastest land speed record for a solar-powered vehicle with their car, the SUNyHAWK.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27, at Stewart International Airport. In preparation for the record attempt, the award-winning SUNyHAWK will make four test runs on Friday, August 19. The times for the test runs are 10 a.m. to noon and the record attempt will take place from 8.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At the test run on August 19, attendance for practice and attempt runs is restricted to team members, SUNY faculty and administrators, local sponsors and a few members of the press.

"The solar car exemplifies the efforts to make the Hudson Valley a center for the solar industry as well as educating students about solar technology," said Interim Dean of the School of Science and Engineering Daniel Freedman. "This is a community effort by local industry, The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC), The State University of New York at New Paltz and the Port Authority-Stewart International Airport. The SUNyHAWK is the most visible of a number of projects happening here at New Paltz that involve basic and applied research on renewable energy sources."

By working closely with The Solar Energy Consortium, an industry-led, not-for-profit group involved in research and manufacture of solar energy cells and related technologies, the students and faculty advisors of the Solar Car Racing Team constructed the $250,000 SUNyHAWK. Vincent Cozzolino and others initiated the Solar Energy Consortium in 2007. Cozzolino is a SUNY New Paltz alumnus and an advisor for the Solar Car Racing Team as well as CEO of TSEC and member of the recently formed Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.

"This record attempt recognizes that the School of Science and Engineering is competing at a high-tech, high-caliber level against universities and organizations that are much, much bigger than us," said Cozzolino. "In terms of job creation, claiming this record, even the challenge itself, is a great boost for the region. We will begin to develop a culture that will attract companies to the Hudson Valley region where they will want to invest in research and be in the vanguard of creating a regional hub where high-tech manufacturing thrives."

The College works with The Solar Energy Consortium to promote solar energy research and develop technology in New York state; to boost New York’s job hires within solar energy-related companies; to advance solar technology innovations, and disseminate the most current information on basic and applied research and technology within the solar energy field.

Through this public-private partnership, New Paltz students and faculty are collaborating with local companies on solar panel technology. In time, this will enable the College’s School of Science and Engineering to be a leader in the economic development of the local and state economy through the research and practical applications of solar panel design.

The Solar Car Racing Team benefits from an average of 30 active participating students from a cross-section of academic majors some of which are business, electrical and computer engineering, computer science, graphic design, communication and art.

"It’s an intriguing task. It’s good for students to have a tangible goal–be it the World Record or an American Solar Challenge road race–that piques their interest from which they learn more. Students get hands-on experience that they can use in the real world," said Ben Rounds, member of The Solar Car Racing Team who graduated in May 2011 with a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering. "It’s exciting that our club attracts students from other academic majors. Business students join the team to help with our marketing and fundraising goal, but they’re often thrilled to help build the car and learn about engineering–and vice versa. We’re all excited to learn and participate in subject areas outside our majors. I think that helps to make us competitive."

The current Guinness World Record for the fastest solar-powered land vehicle is 55.077 miles per hour achieved by the University of New South Wales Solar Racing Team’s Sunswift IV in January 2011. General Motors held the previous record of 49.09 miles per hour for 22 years.

Each vehicle’s speed is measured as an average taken from two runs within one hour in opposite directions on a flat course of 1640.42 feet (500 meters). A Guinness World Record requires that the vehicle be fueled only by silicon solar cells without a battery.

The College’s electrical and computer engineering students showcased their ingenuity, vision and sense of adventure in 2010 when the Solar Car Racing Team finished eighth in field of 17 in the American Solar Challenge’s 1,200 mile road race. In addition they secured the 2010 Specialty Teamwork Award.

They raced from the grassy plains of Tulsa, Okla., to the lofty skyscrapers of Chicago in their three-wheeled, hand-crafted solar car, whose infrastructure is fashioned from carbon fiber, Kevlar, Nomex and aluminum and covered with solar cells.

Forbes magazine’s automotive reviewers Matthew de Paula and Hannah Elliott walked away from their test drive of the SUNyHAWK in March 2011 calling it “spectacular” and “a bellwether for…the future of motoring” (de Paula). Not only were they impressed with the elegant lines and design of the car itself, but also with the dedication of the Solar Car Racing Team of faculty, staff and students who planned, built and raced the car.

Generous donations in cash and services have come from many state organizations, businesses, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who is also a New Paltz alumnus, and individuals across the Hudson Valley to purchase everything from high-efficiency tires that resemble bicycle tires to materials needed to upgrade the solar cells.