In our twenty-two year history, the U-M Solar Car Team has built eleven vehicles. As much as we love each and every one of them and enjoy being surrounded by the rich history they embody, at some point we have to let them go – there just isn’t enough space in the Wilson Center to house our entire fleet. Therefore, the team tries to ensure that all of its vehicles eventually end up in museums so that the public can enjoy them and become interested in science and technology. A few weeks ago, another one of our vehicles took its final roll out of our workspace and was installed in its permanent home.
Continuum, built in 2007, is our ninth-generation vehicle. It was our first vehicle to feature our patented concentrator mirrors, our first three-wheeled car with a powered front wheel, and our first vehicle with a driver seated fully upright. The team was very excited about Continuum’s prospects in the 2007 World Solar Challenge, and was crushed when an accident occurred five minutes into the race. Through massive determination, the race crew worked through the night to rebuild Continuum and rallied to take seventh place in the competition. Continuum and its crew carried this fierce competitive spirit over to the 2008 North American Solar Challenge, where the team won its fourth national championship with a ten-hour margin of victory.
After Infinium was built in 2009, Continuum was retired from racing and was commissioned as a touring vehicle. It made numerous school appearances, and anchored our display at the North American International Auto Show for three years. However, once Infinium was retired in late 2010 and assumed the touring duties, Continuum was left with nothing to do but gather dust. To solve this problem, the team partnered with the Detroit Science Center – a 118,000 square foot science museum located in the heart of Detroit’s museum district. They are committed to inspiring and educating the public, and Continuum seemed like the perfect complement to the center’s hands-on exhibits, IMAX dome, and numerous educational programs.
A few weeks ago, Continuum was loaded into our trailer for the last time and driven into Detroit, where Rick Russell, Tom Mott, and the rest of the crew at the Science Center were excitedly waiting for us. They moved Continuum into their “Next Gen Fuels” exhibit, and carefully hung it from the ceiling for all to see. This morning, members of the team headed back to Detroit to put some final touches on the installation – this is the awesome result:
As exciting as this particular installation may be, it is not truly Continuum’s final resting place. Once Infinium is fully retired, the current plan is to install both vehicles in a slightly different location at the center, hanging nose-to-nose. We look forward to this project, and will be sure to post photos and updates on the blog when the momentous occasion arrives! Until then, we’re glad to see Continuum safely in its new home. We hope that it will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers. Who knows – maybe a child will see this exhibit and be decide to eventually come to the University of Michigan and join the team!
This post was written by Interim Operations Director Aaron Frantz, who feels bad about finessing the fairings onto the vehicle using an angle grinder.