American Solar Challenge Heads Through Columbus

COLUMBUS – Solar cars on a journey from Nebraska to Oregon made their way through Columbus on Saturday afternoon.

The cars were spotted on 23rd Street in Columbus a little after 12:00 P.M. on Saturday. The cars are a part of the American Solar Challenge (ASC), a collegiate competition where students design, build, and race solar-powered electric vehicles. The challenge features teams traveling from Omaha to Bend, Oregon from July 14-22.

Single and multi-occupant solar cars must qualify for the ASC via a three-day track-based qualifying event—the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP). This year’s FSGP took place in Hastings. According to the ASC website, “a vehicle must complete 96 laps in one day or 143 laps in two consecutive days. Each driver must complete 24 laps to qualify for ASC.”

Strategies differ between the track-based event and the cross-country tour but for both events, teams must pass a series of technical inspections called scrutineering. ASC Event Director Gail Lueck said the track event is a great opportunity to make sure the cars are reliable. Out on the road, cars are driving with normal traffic and will be escorted.

The vehicles will follow portions of the Oregon Trail via US highways, state roads, and other non-interstate routes with checkpoints in Grand Island, Gering, Casper, Wyoming, and more until the journey ends in Bend, Oregon on July 22.