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DOE SPONSORS HIGH SCHOOL ELECTRIC VEHICLE COMPETITION IN THIRD ANNUAL SOLAR & ELECTRIC 500

 PITTSBURGH, March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) at Argonne National Laboratory, will sponsor and manage a high school electric vehicle competition during the 1993 APS Solar & Electric 500 in Phoenix, March 5-7.
 CTR will administer five DOE-sponsored competitive events for 23 Arizona and New Mexico high school teams. Now in its third year, this annual competition will take place at the Phoenix International Raceway and will be hosted by the Arizona Public Service (APS) Company, a state electric utility.
 The DOE-sponsored competition is highlighted by the Student Electric Feature, a one-hour range event that requires the high school teams' electric cars to drive laps around the track for as long as they can while maintaining 55 mph. Last year, the cars were required to drive around the track at any speed until their battery power ran down; the new speed standard provides a clear goal for the drivers to reach and adds an element of excitement for the audience. Although the vehicles will be of differing sizes and designs, their performance will be adjusted for weight.
 As part of the electric vehicle's performance testing, CTR will also run a short acceleration event. From a standing start, the cars must accelerate down a 3/8-mile straightaway, brake hard at 1/8 of a mile, and then accelerate again to the end of the straightaway. Robert Larsen of CTR hopes to "see some of the cars burn rubber." A computerized accelerometer will measure acceleration, while efficiency of the cars' systems will be assessed with a new Watt-hour meter.
 The meter, developed by Cruising Equipment Inc. under contract with Argonne, is a milestone for the Solar & Electric 500; up to now, no affordable, conventional diagnostic "fuel" gauge existed for electric vehicles. For both the range and acceleration events, CTR engineers will use the meter to measure current and voltage and assess whether the student-built electric vehicles are more energy efficient than gasoline-powered cars.
 The meter, donated to each team by DOE, is connected to a shunt, located between the battery pack and electric motor controller. The meter then becomes a permanent dashboard instrument, allowing the teams to continue research and development of their vehicles long after the Solar & Electric 500 is over. "The meters are more valuable than any cash prize," said CTR's Larsen. "Advanced technology (the meter) is given to the teams just for showing up." The Solar & Electric 500 marks the first time a Watt-hour meter will be used in a DOE-sponsored competition.
 The meter will also be used to gather data in a CTR-administered energy efficiency event. Additionally, CTR will manage a design inspection by electric vehicle experts to assess cars' workmanship, safety, braking and other general information. Each team will give a judged oral presentation, rounding out CTR's administration of the high school competition.
 CTR's Larsen is excited about the possibilities the high school teams' eagerness brings: "I wish I had something like this when I was in high school," he said. "We're really impressed with the level of skill for high school -- last year one team even had a completely computerized system in their car."
 Although CTR's involvement with the Solar & Electric 500 focuses on the high school teams, DOE is also helping the first five college teams that show up at the competition by awarding them just for entering the professional-level competition. The college teams will be competing alongside professional teams.
 Seventh and eighth grade students will also be able to participate in the Solar & Electric 500 by competing in the Junior Solar Sprint, organized and run mostly by volunteering members of the Society of Automotive Engineers' Phoenix Section. Through CTR, DOE is providing solar cells and motors to the junior teams at a subsidized rate, allowing area science instructors to teach the fundamentals of science and engineering through hands-on competition. The kit cars will be powered by solar energy and steered by wires.
 "This event is a really excellent opportunity for students to learn about future technology," said CTR's Larsen. "We hope they'll go on to be the engineers and scientists responsible for building the electric cars we'll be driving in the future."
 While engineering students work in a competitive environment on this experience, CTR will be gathering data from performance results, assisted by the Watt-hour meter. But the Solar & Electric 500 is just one of eight competitions DOE sponsors in part throughout the year; when the 1993 season is completed, CTR will have the largest database available on the energy efficiency of electric vehicles.
 The Department of Energy, through Argonne's Center for Transportation Research, is committed to providing students with meaningful learning experiences that improve their education by teaching them more about energy efficiency, alternative fuels, and advanced transportation technology. DOE-sponsored design competitions expose these young engineers to the technical and organizational tools they will need as professionals.
 -0- 3/1/93
 /CONTACT: Barbara Pontello of SAE, in Pittsburgh, 412-772-7131/


CO: U.S. Department of Energy; Center for Transportation Research;
 Argonne National Laboratory; Society of Automotive Engineers ST: Arizona IN: AUT SU:


CD-CC -- PG001 -- 1192 03/01/93 08:04 EST
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Date:Mar 1, 1993
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