College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

American Solar Challenge 2022 – Day 1

Iowa State's solar car crosses the starting line
Iowa State's solar car crosses the starting line
Eliana takes off at the starting line in Independence, Mo. for the 2022 American Solar Challenge.

GRAND ISLAND, NEB. – Despite cloudy skies at the start of the race, the American Solar Challenge 2022 kicked off Saturday morning to embark on the historic Oregon Trail.

Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car got the green flag and crossed the starting line at approximately 9:08 a.m. as they began their eight-day, 1470-mile trek from Independence, Mo. to Twin Falls, Idaho.

Team members work on their car
Team members work on Eliana after breaking down in Kansas.

The car, affectionately dubbed “Eliana,” experienced a motor issue shortly after crossing the Kansas state line. After troubleshooting the issue, the team decided mid-afternoon, when temperatures were hovering the 80s, that their best strategy was to trailer the car to Grand Island, Neb., the first stage stop of the race.

“We’ll take a hit distance-wise during the first leg of the race but our hope is we can fully resolve the issue so that we can make up those miles in later legs,” said Andrew Bowen, the team’s project director and a senior in cyber security engineering. “We suspect the issue is with Eliana’s driver-side motor.”

The team spent Saturday night in a hotel, which was the first time many members slept somewhere other than a tent since the event began on July 1.

“It was great sleeping in a real bed in the air conditioning after spending the past week camping,” said Jake Hafele, a senior in electrical engineering.

Preceding the race, the team spent almost a week at the Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan. where they underwent scrutineering to ensure the car was in line with the race’s regulations, and then spent three days driving on the track to determine pole position. During the qualifying event, the team racked up 530 track miles, with an average speed of 32.6 miles per hour. They also recorded a fastest lap time of 3:32, which was second best in their class. Eliana started in fourth place in the multi-occupant vehicle (MOV) class.

The team will spend Sunday in Grand Island working on the car, and they plan to hit the road again Monday morning as they head for Scotts Bluff National Monument in Gering, Neb.

“We have done a lot of driving every weekend this summer to prepare for the competition, and we’ve noticed a trend of bad days being followed by good days,” said Austin Beinder, a senior in electrical engineering with also serves as the team’s strategy lead.  “We think that by getting some rest, we will be fresh and ready to go to resolve this issue today and get back on the road tomorrow.”

The American Solar Challenge is an annual competition where college solar car teams from all over the world compete with each other. The 2022 race is 1470 miles and roughly follows the historic Oregon Trail, beginning in Independence, Mo. and ending in Idaho Falls, Idaho. You can track Eliana as it progresses throughout the race here.

A map of the 2022 American Solar Challenge route