CalSol, a team of mostly undergraduate students at UC Berkeley, designs, builds, tests, and races solar vehicles. Since their inception in 1990, they've created eight generations of cars, including their current flagship model, Zephyr. This street-legal vehicle looks nothing like the cars we use every day, but rather is much lighter and has an unusual shape suited to holding solar panels. It takes about four to five hours to charge on a sunny day and has an average speed of around 40 miles per hour.
The CalSol team travels around the country to compete against other solar cars. With Zephryr, they won the Formula Sun Grand Prix last year. Now, they are building their next generation solar vehicle, Tachyon. As the next step toward real-world applications, this cruiser class vehicle will have four seats. They hope one day solar vehicles will be commercially available.
How do you think a program like this will help students in their learning and future careers? What do you think about the potential for this technology in the real world? Answer these questions and more on Vialogues.
Excerpts from the discussion:
@00:35 Rebecca Sullivan: This club sounds like a valuable learning experience for multiple reasons. Not only do students experiment with creating self-driving vehicles, they work as a team to create and constantly improve a product.
@01:51 RuthS: This seems like important research in sustainability. I wonder how it can merge with all the research being done on self-driving cars. Will cars in the near future have both capabilities?
@02:23 Dallas Milanovich: A lot of refinement in this tech is necessary for cars like these to be practical - great idea, but driving a go-cart on the highway definitely isn't something I want to do.