Solar cars return to Tucumcari

Dave Gragg

The strange little cars that buzzed through Tucumcari two years ago are making their way back as the second biennial American Solar Challenge comes back down Route 66.
The 2,300-mile race is the longest in the world, traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles using only the sun’s rays to power their bizarre-looking craft.
The cars are fitted with solar panels and batteries to harness the sun’s energy. Since designers want as much sunlight hitting the panels as possible, most of the vehicles look more like coffee tables with wheels than cars.
The race begins Sunday, July 13 and competitors are expected to reach Tucumcari on July 17 and 18.
As they did two years ago, the cars will stop at Mesalands Community College for a minimum 30-minute break. The break gives the teams a chance to change drivers, charge the car’s solar batteries and make any necessary adjustments.
Most of the competitors are from universities, although there are some high schools competing.
All of last race’s cars had one driver crammed into a coffin-like cockpit, but this year will see a couple of two-person cars, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is sponsoring the race.
The statement says that a couple of the teams in the 2001 race were able to make more than 300 miles in a single day — a new record.
Technological improvements should make the racers even more interesting this year, the statement says.
Anyone interested in helping staff the Mesalands checkpoint should call John Yearout at 461-4413, extension 138.