Iowa State solar car team tours the state to promote solar energy

AMES, Iowa -- They raced their solar-powered car 2,400 miles across the continent last summer. Next week they'll race all over the state to promote the power of solar energy.

The students of Iowa State's Team PrISUm will make a SunRun around Iowa May 11-15 to show off Sol Invictus, their $400,000, 1,400-watt race car. They'll stop at schools and businesses to give Iowans a closer look at the solar car they raced from Plano, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 91 hours and 12 minutes during last summer's North American Solar Challenge. That was good enough for eighth place overall in the contest for student-designed and student-built solar cars.

Team PrISUm makes a SunRun every other summer. The idea is to promote innovation and alternative energy. This year's event will coincide with Iowa Solar Energy Awareness Week.

Gov. Chet Culver has declared May 11-15 to be a week for raising Iowans' awareness of alternative, sustainable and renewable energy technologies.

"Solar energy offers the state of Iowa a viable renewable energy source that has the ability to provide environmentally clean power for the state without depleting the earth's stores of fossil fuels," says the governor's proclamation.

The proclamation also notes that, "Iowa State University is a national leader in solar vehicle racing and in the development of solar vehicle engineering technologies."

Wade Johanns, an Iowa State senior from Mason City majoring in aerospace engineering and Team PrISUm's assistant project director, said about 12 team members will head out on the SunRun. They'll make stops in Des Moines, Massena, Council Bluffs, Le Mars, Mason City, Cedar Falls, Muscatine, Ames and Gilbert.

They'll tell people about the solar car project and answer questions about their car.

Plus, "We want to promote alternative energy -- specifically solar energy," Johanns said.

The students' car is one demonstration of the power and potential of solar energy. Johanns said the team recently ran some speed tests on the access roads around the Iowa Speedway in Newton. The car hit a top speed of 67 mph.

Team PrISUm next tests its speed against other university teams May 31-June 5 at the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the MotorSport Ranch in Cresson, Texas. The team is waiting for official word about whether there will be another cross-continental race next summer.