A solar-powered car designed by students at the University of Michigan looks like a rolling table top with wheels. But aesthetic oddities might give them the edge in this year’s World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile race across Australia spanning one week in October.
The team calls their model Generation. A bubble pod for the driver sticks up from its otherwise flat, rectangular body, meant to slice through the wind with the least possible resistance. Some of the design details resulted from changes in race rules, most notably a requirement that all cars have four wheels, not three.
That led the team to reconfigure where each wheel could go to maximize aerodynamics. Converting solar to electricity, the car is an example of hyperefficiency even if solar vehicles aren’t likely to hit consumer markets any time soon.