ASU’s Solar Powered Car On Wilkes Roads - CATEGORY Report metro: TITLE

A futuristic looking car seen recently on western Wilkes County’s back roads represents the efforts of Appalachian State University’s solar vehicle team, called Team Sunergy.

The street-legal solar-powered car was built at Appalachian, said Chris Tolbert of Purlear, faculty advisor for the team and adjunct instructor in technology education at Appalachian.

Tolbert also is the technology engineering teacher at West Wilkes High School and works similarly with an electric vehicle team at West High.

He said Appalachian’s car has a maximum speed of 75 mph and will run continuously with sunlight at an average of 45 miles per hour with no battery support.

“When the sun goes away the vehicle will travel about 150 miles on battery alone. Overall, the drive train is approximately 96 percent efficient, where your typical internal combustion engine alone is approximately 30 percent efficient, wasting 70 percent of the energy in gasoline to heat and friction,” said Tolbert.

Tolbert said the vehicle is being tested on Wilkes secondary roads because they better simulate competition conditions and have less congestion than in the Boone area.

He said safety training, driver training, solar array and charge testing are being tested on Wilkes roads.

This summer, Appalachian’s Team Sunergy will again compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at Circuit of Americas Formula 1 track near Austin, Texas.

“The team has doubled in size and is ready to defend and improve upon our third place finish last year…. The event last year held over 20 of the best collegiate solar race teams across the world,” including some with over 10 years of experience.

In Team Sunergy’s first year, he said, members visited and/or interviewed experienced teams from Iowa State, University of Michigan, Principia, University of Kentucky, University of Texas, University of California Berkeley, Illinois State University, University of Waterloo, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Toronto and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tolbert said Appalachian, with the only solar vehicle team from North Carolina that has competed, is helping North Carolina State University build a similar program. He said the ASU team would benefit from having another team from North Carolina competing.

Tolbert attributed much of its success to having Dan Blakeley as project director who first accepted the challenge Tolbert presented in his ASU Transportation Systems class in 2012. Blakeley has been project director since inception.

Team Sunergy is a joint venture between the Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment in the College of Fine and Applied Arts and the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian.

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