|The road rally portion of the SunDay Challenge started just before the rain arrived.
(Photo: Sherri Shields)
In October, the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) hosted a road
rally and exhibition of alternatively fueled vehicles called the SunDay
Challenge. Since 1991, the Challenge has helped educate the public
about alternative-fueled vehicles by promoting alternative energy
technologies that will power the vehicles of the future and help solve
our transportation, energy and air quality problems.
Coinciding with the American Solar Energy Society’s National
Solar Tour, the largest tour of sustainable energy features for buildings
in the U.S., the three-day Challenge was sponsored by FSEC, the Florida
Electric Auto Association, the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT),
and the Space Coast Clean Cities Coalition.
|Alternative fuel vehicles were on display at the SunDay Challenge event. (Photo: Sherri Shields)
Dozens of vehicles, powered by electricity, solar, ethanol, biomass,
bio-diesel, hydrogen, natural gas, and other renewable energy sources,
were displayed throughout the weekend at FSEC. Though some vehicles
were prototypes of future car technologies and still being tested,
many commercially available vehicles were also on display.
One highlight of the display was FSEC’s own “Stealth
Truck,” a plug-in electric hybrid funded by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This vehicle is the first of its
kind to use LED bulbs for turn signals and brake lights, reducing
its heat signature and theoretically making it less vulnerable to
weapons attack in hostile environments.
There were a number of activities for attendees to participate in.
The Plantation High School Electric Car Club let guests ride in their
solar car, which was designed and built by the students. The “Green
Team,” Brevard Community College’s Environmental Club,
cooked hotdogs in a solar oven for lunch. Spectators toured
FSEC’s visitor’s center and facility as part of the National
Solar Tour, browsed displays, and watched the Autocross event.
During the Autocross, car-owners navigated a course one at a time
to demonstrate the speed and agility of their alternative fuel vehicles.
|Spectators checked out the energy-efficient cars on display. (Photo: Sherri Shields)
The road rally, and main event, took place on the second day of the
Challenge in the rain. While the weather wasn’t very
inviting to spectators, it provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate
the durability of alternative-fueled vehicles. The rally course took
participants on a scenic river drive with multiple checkpoints to
a finish line located 30 miles south of the center at FIT in Melbourne.
On the third and final day of the event, an alternative-fueled vehicle
workshop was held in the FSEC auditorium. Speakers at the workshop, “The
Alternatively Fueled Vehicle – Advancing the Choice,” included
Dr. Sankar Das Gupta, CEO of Electrovaya, a portable power systems
provider, and Charles Whalen, public relations director for the Florida
Electric Auto Association. Gupta discussed automotive battery technology,
while Whalen addressed the need for quick development of infrastructure
to support electric vehicle charging stations.
“The interaction between the spectators and the car owners
alone made the event a success,” said Bill Young, FSEC senior
solar energy research engineer and SunDay Challenge project manager. “It
was exciting to witness the exchange of information between the car
owners and attendees.”
Next year’s event is currently scheduled for February 1, 2009.
For more information about the 2007 event and next year’s,
please visit www.sundaychallenge.org.