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Jun 18, 2013 02:23 PM EDT

University of Michigan Unveils New Solar Car to Compete in Australian Race (VIDEO)


The University of Michigan's (UM) Solar Car Team unveiled its latest vehicle, named "Generation," Tuesday morning, reported.

The new solar car was revealed to the public in Detroit after being built for more than a year. It is set to race in Australia's 2013 World Solar challenge this October. The race is a weeklong, 18-mile trip across the continent.

Solar Car Team manager Eric Hausman, a 21-year-old industrial engineering major, said the car was given its name because it is meant to be a symbol for the next generation of solar cars by being the first its kind to have four wheels.

"It's really exciting to be able to show everyone," Hausman said at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. "We wanted this car to signify the change and keep in mind the 11 cars that have come before it."

Since its start in 1990, the University of Michigan Solar Car Team has produced 12 such cars, including "Generation." Of the 100 students who helped build the latest model, 20 will serve as race crewmembers and accompany it to Australia.

Jack Lauckner, General Motors chief technology officer and vice president of global R&D, said it is important for his company to sponsor this new automobile innovation to come out of Detroit. He said it helps students learn and it also brings about alternative fuel options for the future.

Generation's cockpit sits on the car's left side in between the front and rear tires. Bryan Mazor, a 21-year-old physics major and senior at UM, told the New York Times it was structurally similar to a motorcycle.

"Think of a motorcycle with a sidecar, but the sidecar doesn't have anything in it," the project's engineering leader said.

Matt Goldstein was the project's lead strategist and he said the new layout was based on optimizing the amount of sunrays that would hit the car's solar panels.

"We tried to take every factor into account when designing the car," said Goldstein a 20-year-old computer science and engineering major. He said the increase in solar wattage is "hard to quantify an exact percentage, but we're fairly confident that it's enough to win."

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