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7:07 PM Fri, Dec. 14th

University of Minnesota solar race cars donated to Kingman museum

The Aurora I solar race car developed by the University of Minnesota in 1993 has been donated to the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, along with the Aurora II that was built a year later. (Courtesy)

The Aurora I solar race car developed by the University of Minnesota in 1993 has been donated to the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, along with the Aurora II that was built a year later. (Courtesy)

KINGMAN – The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum has picked up two solar race cars from the University of Minnesota that will be arriving the first week of December, the museum founder said.

The City of Kingman will be helping with transportation expenses, which has been a major obstacle to electric cars being donated to the museum from across the nation, said Roderick Wilde, executive director of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation.

The Aurora I and Aurora II race cars were built in 1993 and 1994, shortly after the University of Minnesota solar vehicle program was started in 1990.

Aurora I received an award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for design excellence and engineering safety, and was developed at an expensive cost of $127,000. It raced in Sunrayce 93, a solar car race from Arlington, Texas, to Minneapolis.

“One of the things I have learned from researching this car is just how far the technology has come,” Wilde said.

The average speed of the first World Solar Challenge in Australia in 1987 was 42 mph. By 2005, cars were topping 80 mph.

The cruiser class was introduced in 2013 for solar cars holding two to four passengers. Wilde said he particularly liked the styling of the Sunswift V from the University of South Wales.

In July 2014, the Sunswift team broke an international record for the fastest electric vehicle capable of traveling 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, on a single battery charge. It averaged 66 mph over the distance.

The record was not an exclusive solar car record, but was open to any vehicle weighing under 500 kilograms, Wilde noted.

“It is quite an evolutionary technological adventure that needs to be shared with the world,” he said. “We have the ability to share this information through our museum.”

The Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum now has three solar race vehicles, having recently received the Xenith, which was Stanford University’s entry in the 2011 World Solar Challenge.

Wilde said he’s discussing the possibility of hanging all three cars on the walls of the museum, which takes up 3,700 square feet in the back of the Powerhouse Visitor Center and has already run out of display space for the vehicles that have been received.

“They would make quite a dramatic impact upon entry to the museum,” Wilde said. “They are large but light, so it may be possible. The wall space is huge.”