Fusion cruises 250 miles under cloudy skies; may reach Iowa today

AMES, Iowa -- Clouds and rain robbed Iowa State University's Fusion solar race car of battery power on day three of the North American Solar Challenge.

Fusion, Iowa State's student-built solar race car, cruised about 250 miles from Broken Arrow, Okla., to Holton, Kan., on Tuesday. The morning and early afternoon clouds forced Team PrISUm to stop along the road for about 35 minutes of battery recharging.

Earlier in the day, Fusion passed the solar car from Auburn University, Iowa State's closest rival in the race's stock class. But the recharging stop allowed the Auburn team to move just ahead of Fusion to reclaim the stock-class lead.

Team members were satisfied with Fusion's performance under the challenging skies.

"I think things are going pretty well," said Amanda Helgeson, a senior from Rochester, Minn., who's studying mechanical engineering. "We managed to drive most of the day -- even without sunshine. And that was pretty good."

Helgeson said the team's goal for Wednesday is to make it 330 miles to Sioux Falls, S.D. That would take the team into the Omaha checkpoint at Millard West High School about noon. The route crosses into Iowa at Sioux City, moves north on Iowa Highway 12 into Akron and then into South Dakota.

Fusion was the ninth car through the Topeka, Kan., checkpoint on Tuesday. Fusion trailed seven cars from the more powerful open class. And it trailed the Auburn car by about 8 minutes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology car was the overall leader.

Twenty university teams started the 2,500-mile race from Austin, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Sunday. Thirteen cars made it through the Topeka checkpoint on Tuesday.