Iowa State University

Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777



Justin Steinlage, Team PrISUm, (515) 290-9293

Team PrISUm garage (students are almost always there), (515) 294-3723

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917

Team PrISUm tests solar car for this month's 2,500-mile race

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's solar car made a quick road trip to southeast Iowa's Sigourney on Thursday. Then the students who will soon race that car from Texas into Canada learned a few things on the way home.

The sleek black car dubbed Fusion ran out of sunshine. Then it ran out of energy in Marshalltown. So the students loaded it in a trailer and hauled it back to campus.

Later they talked about what they had just learned about cross-country racing: Keep track of the forecast. Slow down and conserve energy when clouds show up. And watch out for lots of hills.

Justin Steinlage, a senior in mechanical engineering from St. Lucas, Iowa, and the director of the solar car project, said the car is ready to race. But the team is still learning the strategies that will allow it to go up to 350 miles a day.

And it will have to go that far when the North American Solar Challenge starts July 17 in Austin, Texas. The race will head north and take cars into Iowa from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, S.D., between July 19 and July 21. The cars will race into Canada and finish in Calgary, Alberta, on July 27.

Team PrISUm will leave for Texas on Saturday, July 9. Before the racing starts, race officials will inspect Fusion. And more members of Team PrISUm will take the qualifying test to be race drivers.

Amanda Helgeson, a senior in mechanical engineering from Rochester, Minn., will be one of Fusion's drivers. And she said it's not easy to be in the driver's seat.

Wind blows the car around. There's not much suspension to soften the bumps. And a shift is five hours under the driver's wheel.

But Helgeson said the car is still fun to drive.

Why's that?

"Because it's different," she said. "There aren't a whole lot of people who can say they've driven a solar car."


Here's the preliminary schedule for the North American Solar Challenge:

  • Start, Austin, Texas, July 17
  • Stage Stop, Weatherford, Texas, July 17-18
  • Checkpoint, Broken Arrow, Okla., July 18-19
  • Checkpoint, Topeka, Kan., July 19-20
  • Checkpoint, Omaha, Neb., July 19-20
  • Checkpoint, Sioux Falls, S.D., July 20-21
  • Checkpoint, Fargo, N.D., July 20-22
  • Stage Stop, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, July 21-24
  • Checkpoint, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, July 24
  • Checkpoint, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, July 24-25
  • Stage Stop, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, July 25-27
  • Finish, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, July 27
Fusion solar car

For a print-quality photo contact News Service at 294-3720

Ryan Ellis of Team PrISUm races Fusion around the 2.1 mile track at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan., during May's qualifying race for the North American Solar Car Challenge. Team PrISUm won its class and easily qualified for the July 17-27 race. (Photo by Colin Burnett.)

Quick look

Iowa State University's solar race car team soon will depart for this month's 2,500 mile race from Austin, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Iowa State's solar race car is fun to drive "because it's different. There aren't a whole lot of people who can say they've driven a solar car."

Amanda Helgeson