Racing across the outback with University of Michigan Solar Car Team

Thuraya is a proud sponsor of satellite airtime for this exciting race

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to build and race a solar powered car and race it?

Well, that is something that the University of Michigan Solar Car Team (UM) is completely familiar with. In fact, the team has been building solar powered electric vehicles since 1990. They have raced in the American Solar Challenge in the US and Canada and have won seven  American Solar Challenges, placing in the top three in the World Solar Challenge, five times.

The 21-member team will be entering their 12th car, named “Generation" into the World Solar Challenge in Australia which runs from October 6 to 13. The exhilarating seven-day race starts in Darwin and ends in Adelaide.  

Built of carbon fiber, lightweight and ultra-aerodynamic, the car runs on the same amount of energy as a hair dryer. Amazing, isn’t it? The 2013 race is also tossing up a new challenge, by pushing toward more realistic vehicles, requiring a larger driver compartment and four wheels.

For this year’s race, the UM team is working with Thuraya, which will be sponsoring mobile satellite airtime for their communications needs. The team will be using Thuraya IP as well as XTs during the race as part of their communications kit. The team chose to work with Thuraya because of its highly reliable network and comprehensive coverage of Australia. Thuraya’s satellite phones are also favored by the team because of their strong sound quality, walk-and-talk features and docking units that facilitate their use in vehicles.

Jeffrey Cwagenberg, Director of Meteorology at University of Michigan Solar Car said, “Communication is key to being successful during the race because cellular networks are non-existent for much of the route. In 2011, the team encountered brush fires that closed the road. Because of a variety of reasons, including a severe lack of cellular coverage in the outback, the team back in the States knew of the closure, but the team on the ground was unaware for a significant amount of time. Vehicles in our caravan can be upwards of 50km away from each other. Even high powered mobile radios can’t be relied on as much as a good satellite connection.” 

Mobile handsets such as the Thuraya XT allow the team to communicate with each other and their caravan to provide critical route information, road hazards and weather updates. “Communications also means keeping out team safe. We take every precaution we can to ensure the safety of everyone. While we have some of the best safety equipment with us in the outback, being able to summon for assistance is critical.” He added.

Meanwhile, Thuraya’s IP terminals are used to collaborate with team members across the outback and around the world. It helps perform data analysis in real-time to develop the most effective strategy. Using the IP terminals also helps the team stay on top of the most recent changes in weather, road closures, and other hazards.

Posted on August 6, 2013

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