U.S. Department of Energy

    Solar Car Sets Record Distance, but Tragedy Mars Related Tour

    September 1, 2004


    Three young men install a small lid over the helmeted head of the solar car driver, barely visible above the flat blue three-wheeled vehicle.

    Members of the Midnight Sun team install the car's canopy as driver Silvia Pascual prepares to depart.
    Credit: Midnight Sun Solar Car Team, University of Waterloo

    An intrepid team of solar car enthusiasts from Canada's University of Waterloo has set a world record for the longest journey by a solar-powered car. Called the Midnight Sun North American tour, the trip started from the campus in Waterloo, Ontario, crossed Canada to Vancouver, then headed down through Seattle and down the length of California. On August 26th, the team crossed the border into Arizona, surpassing the world-record distance of 7,043.5 kilometers (4,376.6 miles) set by Queen's University in July 2000. The team is now setting its sights on an unofficial record of 13,054 kilometers (8,111 miles) set in Australia. See the University of Waterloo press release.

    As of August 30th, the team had left Terrell, Texas, heading for Little Rock, Arkansas, and had traveled more than 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles). Although the team originally planned to travel a total of 19,336 kilometers, or just over 12,000 miles, they have decided to bypass the Southeast, since Hurricane Frances is expected to bring unfavorable weather into the region by the Labor Day weekend. See the "Tour News" section of the Midnight Sun North American tour Web site, and check on the status of Frances from the National Hurricane Center.

    Sadly, another Canadian solar car tour ended in tragedy on August 12th. The Canadian Solar Tour featured solar cars from six universities in Ontario and Quebec and was meant to travel from Windsor, Ontario, to Quebec City, Quebec. Near Waterloo, Andrew Frow, a University of Toronto student, was involved in a two-car crash and was killed. The tour was cancelled, and a memorial service was held on August 19th in honor of the 21-year-old engineering student. A memorial scholarship has also been established in Andrew Frow's name. The accident remains under investigation. See the August 12th and August 23rd announcements from the University of Toronto.