Schulich 1 sizzles

Solar car is up to speed

Arm curls, hot yoga, endurance training and nutritional counseling. It may sound like boot camp for running a marathon but it’s actually part of the training routine for three University of Calgary students who will drive the Schulich 1 solar car from Dallas, Texas to Calgary this summer in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge.

Driving a solar car isn’t nearly as easy or comfortable as a normal vehicle, so there’s a lot we have to do to get ready to spend long periods of time driving at high speed,” said Jeff Wickenheiser, a first-year student in the Schulich School of Engineering and one of the team’s drivers.

After months of driving Schulich 1 in university parking lots, the drivers had their first chance to put the car through its paces at Race City Motorsports Park on May 6. It was Wickenheiser’s first chance to see how the vehicle performs at cruising speed.

At higher speeds you definitely have to pay more attention and be more aware of your surroundings

Jeff Wickenheiser, Schulich 1 Driver

The team tapped the experience of previous UCalgary solar car drivers to come up with a training regime for the 4,000 kilometre race that starts in Dallas on July 13 and ends at the UCalgary finish line on July 22.

The drivers are focusing on increasing their upper body strength and stamina. The car does not have power steering and each driver will be expected to drive five-hour shifts during the race’s 10-hour days.

They are also taking driver training classes at Race City and special yoga classes in hot rooms to ready themselves for the intense heat of driving across the southern U.S. under a Plexiglass canopy with no air conditioning.
“The conditions while driving can be quite intense, so the drivers have to be in good shape and stay well hydrated,” said Darshni Pillay, the team’s operations manager.

The testing day at Race City will be followed by regular practice runs on secondary highways outside of Calgary leading up to the team’s departure for Dallas on July 1.

Originally posted in UToday, May 9, 2008