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DailyTidings.com
  • Moving forward with energy

    MIT student from Jacksonville is part of the university's solar car project
  • After graduating from St Mary's School in Medford only two years ago, Rachel Batzer has found herself on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Solar Electric Vehicle Team.
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  • JACKSONVILLE — After graduating from St. Mary's School in Medford only two years ago, Rachel Batzer has found herself on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Solar Electric Vehicle Team, shaping a sleek car that in October will compete in Australia's prestigious World Solar Challenge.
    Relaxing at her Jacksonville home after taking part in a Boston-to-Los Angeles tour with "Eleanor," the 11th solar vehicle MIT students have assembled since 1985, Batzer says, "It's pretty exciting what they let undergraduates do, being in charge of their own project instead of doing parts of some projects for a graduate student or company."
    The objective of the longtime solar car tradition at MIT, aside from providing a space for advanced, hands-on mechanical engineering, is to come up with technologies and research that can be filtered down to the transportation industry, where energy-saving advances can reduce the carbon footprint, says Batzer.
    The breathtakingly svelte car is built with a lightweight carbon fiber shell (430 pounds), it's aerodynamic (one-fifth the drag of an ordinary car, greatly reducing energy use), and it has a strong, lightweight chromalloy chassis. It is powered entirely by solar energy, absorbed by six square meters of solar cells that cost $50,000 and are stored in 600 lithium-ion battery cells.
    It holds one person and has no extras, such as a sound system or external mirrors. It has three wheels, two in the front for steering, one in the back with a hub motor that generates energy from the car's motion. The brakes are regenerative, storing energy from deceleration, Batzer says.
    The car cost $300,000, funding for which comes from sponsors who are happy to have their names emblazoned on the side of the vehicle. They include General Motors, Tektronix, 3M, Panasonic, which donates the batteries, and Ford, which just gave MIT $40,000 worth of wind tunnel time.
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