Electric technology has come quite a long way since the Tesla Roadster, built using a heavily modified Lotus Elise chassis, first hit the roads more than a decade ago. Electric vehicles (“EVs”) now use dedicated EV platforms, are larger, have bigger batteries and, in many cases, support fast charging. Efforts to increase range by making EVs more efficient, especially regarding to how they use energy, has led car makers to solar energy. Theoretically, solar panels could be used to supplement and even provide power to the onboard battery, giving drivers more range.
The American Solar Challenge is a biennial event that sees participants design, build and then drive solar-powered cars in an endurance challenge across the country. The MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team were this year’s winners, taking first place after its solar car Nimbus beat eight other cars in the Single Occupancy Vehicle (“SOV”) category. Entirely designed and built by MIT students, Nimbus travelled a whopping 1,109 miles at an average speed of 38.4 miles an hour equipped with a solar array that supplemented the power provided by its battery pack.
This year’s competition was unique; instead of being a timed event, as it has traditionally been for years, it was based on the total distance each entry travelled. The teams had to travel from Independence, Missouri, to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and they were allowed to drive additional miles within each of the race’s three stages as long as their batteries had enough juice. Nimbus, which has been in the making for three years, surpassed the closest runner-up by more than 100 miles.
The MIT team spent three years designing, building and refining its solar vehicle, spending hours upon hours at the MIT Edgerton Center’s machine shop. Test drives included driving Nimbus around the greater-Boston area as well as to Salem, Massachusetts, and even Cape Cod. Team members also drove to Palmer Motorsports Park in Palmer, Massachusetts, in the spring to practice various race components before finally heading to the Formula Sun Grand Prix in Topeka, Arkansas, for the final test runs.
After performing a series of qualifying challenges to qualify for the race, Nimbus placed second after driving 239 laps around the track in three days (597.5 miles). The 2021 American Solar Challenge saw Nimbus travel with a caravan of seven vehicles, including a scout vehicle and a lead car as well as a chase vehicle for the strategy team, a transport truck and trailer, a media car, and a support vehicle carrying food, supplies and camping gear.
Nimbus performed admirably, but the team still has a few glitches to work on. The vehicle’s aerodynamic shape and light weight made it energy efficient, and with adequate sunlight, it could travel up to 40 miles per hour without using energy from the battery. This is the kind of technology that, once perfected, will grant electric vehicles much longer ranges while relying on clean, renewable energy. The next American Solar Challenge will take place in 2022.
The success of the MIT team points to the fact that companies such as Ideanomics Inc. (NASDAQ: IDEX) may soon not have to look very far for investment opportunities since the possibilities in the EV sector are still vastly untapped.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Ideanomics Inc. (NASDAQ: IDEX) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/IDEX
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