Solar vehicle team speeds on to success


Photo Credit: Andrea Velgis | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s Solar Vehicles Team is harnessing the sun’s energy to speed their way to success in a solar vehicle track race this summer.

SVT is a multidisciplinary organization that works out of the electrical and mechanical engineering departments to design, build and race solar vehicles, according to Breanna Simpson, SVT president and mechanical engineering senior.

“We’re just an organization of students dedicated to building and racing solar vehicles,” Simpson said. “As far as the machine goes or welding or actually manufacturing the body, we do most of it ourselves.”

The team competes in both track and cross-country competitions. Starting July 3, the team plans to compete in the annual Formula Sun Grand Prix track race. 

Vasiliy Pobedinski, mechanical engineering junior and the team’s mechanical lead, said preparation for competitions begins years in advance.

“We are in the design phase for our next car, BeVolt, which we are preparing for races in summer of 2018,” Pobedinski said. “But we’re doing last minute maintenance on our current car, TexSun, in preparation for its final race this coming summer.”

Pobedinski said the team faces many diverse challenges, ranging from technical to organizational.

“Our biggest mechanical challenges will include working with structural composites, like carbon fiber, and the thermal challenge of cooling the lithium-ion batteries,” Pobedinski said. “In both cases, we will incorporate simulation on the supercomputer as well as extensive laboratory testing to take on these engineering challenges.”

Electrical engineering freshman Rohan Garg said teams that incorporate engineering are helpful for engineering students.

“Teams like the solar vehicle team are important for engineering students because they allow us to see how we can apply what we learn in class to real world problems,” Garg said. “Also, they’re a really fun way to allow students to do cool things while meeting new people.”

However, Simpson said students of all majors are welcome to join the interdisciplinary team.

“One of the things I’m trying to do is build a stronger business team,” Simpson said. “We’re an interdisciplinary team, we want anyone who’s interested.”

Simpson said she enjoys watching team members work together to achieve the same goal.

“We want people who want to learn about our car and be dedicated to making a car out of sustainable energy,” Simpson said. “That’s what this (organization) is all about: Taking people who don’t know anything and just teach them so they can pass that information on.”