The 2016 American Solar Challenge was an 8 day 1,975 mile road course going through 7 states from Brecksville, OH to Hot Springs, SD. The challenge coordinated with the National Park Service and takes the 12 teams through 9 national parks, historic sites, and partner properties throughout the Midwest. The American Solar Challenge is a competition to design, build, and drive solar powered cars and has been organized for over two decades.
This year the event started on July 30 and includes teams from colleges and universities throughout North America. Most teams use silicon solar cells that are mounted to the cars body. They are very similar to solar panels used for houses or buildings, but lack the coating normally put over the roof-top in the interest of higher efficiency.
There are parameters set on the cars by race regulations like only being able to use about 6 square meters of cell area (this will change to 4 meters next year because people are becoming so efficient with the six foot spacing). There are also regulations monitoring the amount of battery capacity the cars can carry, about 5 kw/hr (Solar Power World). Teams end up using similar methods in designing the cars, but exercise a lot of design variance. The steering and braking borrow ideas from go-karts or motorcross bikes and the wheels and tires are specially made for solar races.
The 2016 American Solar Challenge was won by University of Michigan who completes the 4 stages with a total time of 48:26:46. This race helps pioneer bright minds and new design. Who knows what people will come up with given the opportunity! Here are some more of the designs to take a look at: