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Soak up the sun: Dalhousie engineers build Atlantic Canada's 1st solar-powered car

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Engineering students at Halifax’s Dalhousie University are getting ready to debut a solar car of their own design at an international competition.

The team has been working on a solar-powered electric vehicle prototype -- the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada -- ahead of the 2023 Formula Sun Grand Prix.

The annual track competition sees college and university teams from around the world race their solar-powered cars in closed circuit courses.

“We’re going to be racing it this June in Kansas and we’re really, really excited about it,” says Kate Arsenault, a member of Dalhousie’s solar car team.

“A lot is going into it right now. The base of our car is actually from Illinois State University, we purchased it from them, and we gutted the entire insides of it and are redoing everything that basically makes the car run.”

The Dalhousie team hopes to send a 15-member race crew to Kansas for the five-day event.

They’re currently fundraising for the trip, with a goal of $20,000.

The group says the funds will go towards registration, travel and other race-related costs.

The car they’ll be racing features several solar panels, which take energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.

“From there, it flows into (a) high-voltage box where we have four boxes that will take the solar energy and put it into our battery box,” says solar team motor lead, Noah Bugden.

“From there, the energy from the battery flows through the contactors, comes all the way … to the motor controller and then the motor itself. It’s what makes our car move.”

The team has grown from five members to more than 80 since it was founded in 2021.

The group is made of electrical, computer, mechanical, chemical, environmental, industrial engineering and computer science students at Dalhousie.

“Our team is amazing. We all put so much work and so much effort into it. Each person plays their own part,” Arsenault says.

“We really want to show people how powerful clean energy and clean transportation can be. We’re really passionate about climate solutions. The whole team is really interested in it. A lot of our target careers are going towards climate change and climate solutions.” 

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