TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Clouds may still linger over relations between Washington and Tehran, but that's not stopping a group of Iranian students and their teachers from gearing up for a summer road trip through the American heartland.
Fueled by the sun and their hopes to shine in a first for the Islamic Republic, the 19-strong team is preparing to bring an Iranian solar car to compete in the United States for the first time, in the American Solar Challenge in July.
The flat, rectangular Havin-2, or Brilliant Sun, drove for tests alongside slightly larger gas-powered motor vehicles last week on a stretch of highway in Iran's mountainous north, ahead of the eight-day, 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer) race that will take it from Austin, Texas to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While the engine and photovoltaic panels are imported, the team designed and developed a Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) system for the car, which interconnects inverters, battery chargers and other devices to optimize its photovoltaic cells.
Farkhondeh Naziri, 20, in charge of electronics on the project and the only female member of the team from Qazvin Azad University, said they plan to optimize the car's absorption of solar energy based on the route it plans to take.
"We first do a simulation of the actual race course and study the weather conditions there. Then we try to calculate what the sun's angles would be during the eight-days," she said.
The 220-kilogram (485-pound) vehicle is 4.5 meters (15 feet) long, 1.8 meters (6 feet) wide and 1.1 meters (4 feet) tall, with a cockpit-like canopy for the driver. With photovoltaic cells covering some 6 square meters (65 square feet) of its surface, the car's lithium-Ion batteries can drive it up to four hours between 90 to 150 kph (56 to 93 mph).
The car's predecessor, the Havin-1, ranked 17th in the 2011 World Solar Challenge in Australia.