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The U's solar car approaches a tunnel in Taiwan.

Borealis III approaches a tunnel on its race route in Taiwan.

Borealis III shines overseas

University's solar car team finishes fourth at World Solar Rally

By Jim Thorp

Sept. 20, 2006

The sun may shine differently at different latitudes, but the University of Minnesota solar car team didn't notice. The Solar Vehicle Project car, Borealis III, was the top U.S. finisher and took fourth place at the World Solar Rally in Taiwan on Wednesday.

The team from Ashiya University in Japan, took first place in the three-day rally, followed by Taiwan's National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences team and the Southern Taiwan University of Technology team, respectively.

Hampered by inclement weather and motor-control issues on day one of the race, Borealis III still managed to finish sixth. On day two, the team moved into fifth place and hoped to carry its momentum in the 96-mile final leg of the rally.

About the Solar
Vehicle Project

The U of M Solar Vehicle Project was founded by a group of undergraduates in the Institute of Technology in 1990. For more information about the U of M solar car project, go to

"The first timed segment was a flat-out drag strip," said project manager Patrick O'Connor via e-mail following the race. "There were a few bends, but we believe we reached speeds of nearly 140 kph (85 mph), and the overall victor, Ashiya Sky Ace TIGA, clocked in at 165 kph (100 mph)! These speeds seemed incredible to us all. The second and final timed stage of the day was not much different, only shorter ... At the very end of the last timed stage, we began to see some motor cutout issues again.

"The faster teams seemed to have superior motor control ... This will be more motivation to work on our ?ber-motor and develop it for future use, should we pursue an adventure like the World Solar Rally in the future."

O'Connor was impressed with the steady improvement of the team's performance after troubles early on. "Really, I could not be more happy," he said. "The team has learned what to improve, what to change completely, and most importantly how to interact globally with other engineers solving the same problem we are."