NORMAL — Illinois State University's solar car team will travel to one of the top oil-producing countries in the world to show what its alternative energy vehicle can do.
The team has been selected as part of an international field from six continents to participate in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge in January.
“There's a lot to be excited for,” Sarah Noll, the team's president, said Monday. “There are not a lot of American teams, as we understand it.”
She said the team is looking forward to “showing what an American solar car can do.”
The event will end with the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit. The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is a part, is among the 10 largest oil and gas producers in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
ISU was recommended for the international event by organizers of the American Solar Challenge, in which the university has been competing since 2005.
"It's really terrific” that ISU was chosen," said ISU President Larry Dietz. "It says a lot about the students and their advisers.”
ISU finished second in the 2013 Formula Sun Grand Prix in Texas, missing first place “by less than a lap,” Noll said. The same car, dubbed Mercury IV, finished fourth in the 2012 Grand Prix and seventh in that year's cross-country road race held every other year.
The event organizers are subsidizing getting the car from Illinois to Abu Dhabi, but Noll estimates another $20,000 to $30,000 will be needed for the team's transportation, food and lodging.
Dietz said Monday that finding money is “still under discussion,” adding ISU's participation adds another dimension to the university's efforts to expand international experiences for its students.
The team's newest car, Mercury V, was severely damaged in a fire during last year's Formula Sun Grand Prix. Team members intend to repair it, but, for now, their attention is focused on Mercury IV.
The first step was taking it out for a spin on Sunday to “make sure it was still in running condition,” Noll said.
“The car is great,” she said. “It's a sturdy car.”
Noll, who will receive her master's degree in applied economics in December, is one of only five team members returning from last year and the only one who'd driven Mercury IV.
“It's like my little baby,” she said, explaining “The biggest thing to get done is to redo the (solar panel) array we have.”
The student team also will make other modifications, rewire it and basically “take everything apart,” she said.
The purpose of the thorough rebuilding is to ensure everyone on the team is familiar with how each part of the car works, Noll said, so, “if something goes wrong, we'll know how to fix it.”