Cal Poly’s Vehicles Laboratory (PROVE) unveiled their student innovated solar-powered vehicle “Dawn” to the public April 7. Since 2015, the PROVE members have been working more than 50 hours per week individually on the car. Their goal is to design a world-record-breaking, zero-emission car.
The car looks like a futuristic aircraft and can fit one person lying down inside. Now that the car is nearly complete, the members plan on running frequent tests during the next six weeks to make sure it is safe for a passenger at potentially world record breaking speed.
Mechanical engineering senior Logan Simon is in charge of all mechanical aspects of the vehicle, and said the extreme amount of labor hours put into building the car was the hardest part for him.
“We have a great team and we love working together. We put in insane hours, but it’s super rewarding,” Simon said.
Simon said his involvement with the project led him to a job with General Atomics immediately after graduation, where he will be building drones for the military.
Throughout the two-year process, the team faced several roadblocks. Aerospace engineering senior Kirwan Bonifas said at one point, he was struggling to figure out why the resin wasn’t curing after two weeks of letting it set.
“We would’ve botched the entire car if we slapped the resin on incorrectly. We let it sit for the whole two weeks and it wasn’t working,” Bonifas said. “I went back and reread the technical documents for [the resin] and in super fine print it said,‘Keep cure temperature between this range.”
To solve the problem, Bonifas said the team constructed a heating system to maintain the correct temperature for the resin.
Simon said that before Winter 2018, only the lower half of the car was complete. The team had to work tirelessly to make sure the car was ready by the showing April 7.
“Our project manager Will Sutton said that we had the ‘best worst quarter ever,’” Simon said. “We had to just come together and do it or the project would be impossible to complete in time. We always said that if we don’t finish this project then there wouldn’t be more projects. So we stood up to the challenge and our team was great last quarter and super dedicated, and we did it.”
Sutton, project manager and aerospace engineering senior, said “Dawn” can reach freeway speeds using less than 2 kilowatts of solar power and a top speed of 65 mph.
The PROVE team conducted their first test drive April 8 and will showcase the car in the Poly Royal Parade during Open House April 14.
“We have a few finals things to put together and assemble into the vehicle to make it totally drive-worthy,” Sutton said.