Solar-powered vehicle from Cal Poly PROVE Lab to challenge world record

The PROVE Lab car is made of carbon fiber composites and features more than 100 ft2 of solar panels.

Over the past three years, a team of Cal Poly students have been working to design and build a vehicle to challenge the international land-speed record for a completely solar-powered car. 

Their car is made of carbon fiber composites and features more than 100 ft2 of solar panels. It has no batteries or any other method for storing energy and uses less than 2 kW of solar power. So can it beat the existing 56 mph record for a solar-powered vehicle? The team will make a run at the record this June at US Air Force Plant 42 (Palmdale, CA, US).

“We know from our simulations and testing that this thing should top 65 mph,” says aerospace senior and project manager Will Sutton. “No vehicle has ever been specifically designed from scratch to break this record. Our vehicle has to be lighter, leaner and more powerful than previous record holders.”

But the project isn’t just about beating some record. PROVE Lab’s founder and faculty advisor, Dr. Graham Doig believes the project will inspire people to continue to embrace renewable energy. “The cost of solar energy has fallen so dramatically in the last 10 years and efficiency is always increasing,” he says.

David Alexander, aerospace engineering senior and chief engineer, says, “It’s less about what you might drive in your everyday life and more about showing people just how far solar energy tech has come in terms of being able to supply the electricity we need for everything.”