College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Team PrISUm stopped by police, but still third in American Solar Challenge

From the view of Team PrISUm's lead vehicle, Wisconsin police run verify the solar car's licensing and registration. Provided by Team PrISUm.
From the view of Team PrISUm’s lead vehicle, Wisconsin police verify Phaeton’s licensing and registration. Photo provided by Team PrISUm.

Members of Team PrISUm had an unexpected surprise today when they raced across the Iowa border into Wisconsin to the La Crosse stage stop of the American Solar Challenge.

Their solar car Phaeton was pulled over by the police.

While traveling on a rural highway at about 35 miles per hour in a 55, Iowa State’s convoy – consisting of a lead vehicle, the solar car and a chase vehicle – created a trail of traffic behind it.

And one of the motorists just so happened to be an undercover police officer.

“I was driving the chase car,” said Logan Scott, who is the Team PrISUm project director and a recent graduate in mechanical engineering. “From my position, I saw the officer gesturing wildly with his hands. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or what was going on.”

It turns out that he was a county police officer who didn’t know about the American Solar Challenge. Scott said the state authorities are notified but that didn’t seem to get passed down all the way.

The officer had basically pulled the convoy over to check and make sure that Phaeton was a legal vehicle.

“Luckily, we had licensed and registered the car in Ankeny the week before the race so that it could be legally driven on public roads,” Scott said. Phaeton is classified as an experimental vehicle, but that just means it can only be driven during the daytime as long as it’s accompanied by a lead and chase vehicle.

Despite the highway holdup, Team PrISUm was third to arrive at the La Crosse stage stop and remains third in time.

The team raced more than 230 miles today and will set out tomorrow morning for Minneapolis, Minnesota – the final stage stop of the American Solar Challenge.