CEDAR RAPIDS — Designing an SUV with cup holders, room for groceries, a stereo system and top speed of more than 70 mph may not seem like a big deal.
It is if the SUV is a “Solar Utility Vehicle” that represents the next generation of solar-powered vehicle, replacing hot, cramped, single-seaters built for efficiency and utility.
It’s also a big deal if the vehicle is more than just a way to get from Point A to Point B, according to Matt Goode, an Iowa State University materials engineering student from Coggon.
The utility of Penumbra, the 14th iteration of ISU’s Team PrISUm solar-powered vehicle, doesn’t stop when you get to Point B.
“When you get to work, you plug it and it starts powering your workplace,” Goode, 22, explained. “Once it is recharged, it starts powering the (building’s) electrical system.
“It has a lot of cool aspects you’d never get from an internal combustion engine,” he said.
Not only does that reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but Goode pointed out that in emergency situations Penumbra — named after the area of half shadow created by a solar eclipse — could provide power for a home.
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Goode is in Australia where he will be ISU’s race team leader for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Oct. 8-15. It’s a coast-to-coast, 1,900-mile race from Darwin in the Northern Territory across the Outback to Adelaide in South Australia.
Goode, who was the team’s project director for 1.5 years before he left for an internship at SpaceX — where he has a job waiting after graduation this year — hopes the race won’t be his last venture in solar-powered vehicles. Goode thinks it might be at least 10 years before solar vehicles are market-ready — and he hopes to be part of bringing Team PrISUm’s version of the SUV to consumers.
When people ask where they can buy a solar car, he and his teammates tell them that if no one is building them, “we’ll start a solar car company right here in the state of Iowa.”
“It’s something I definitely want to pursue,” said Goode, who built electric jeeps while attending North-Linn High School. He thinks the Midwest would be a great place for a solar-powered vehicle manufacturer.
Working on Team PrISUm has been a great application of his coursework, Goode said, but he’s also learned a lot outside the classroom. A 99-county driving tour of Iowa in Penumbra revealed door panels would fall off when little kids banged around inside the car.
He’s also tested it in Ford Motor Co.’s wind tunnel in the Detroit area. Team PrISUm also works with Rockwell Collins, especially on the vehicle’s electronics.
Then there’s the fundraising, organizing and managing the project.
“It’s like running a startup business while going to school,” said Goode, the son of Lynn and Steve Goode.
He’s optimistic about Penumbra’s performance in Australia. Team PrISUm has been on a roll. It won the 2015 Formula Sun Grand Prix in 2015 and last year overcame electrical, mechanical and weather challenges to finish seventh in the American Solar Challenge.
To follow the upcoming race, go to prisum.org or worldsolarchallenge.org.
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