NREL Model Car Competitions
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) hosts car competitions that race solar- and battery-powered model vehicles. Middle School teams from all around Colorado participate in this fun, educational, and exciting event every May. Teams work together building cars with guidance from a parent, teacher, or coach to compete in race and design categories. A "Spirit Award" is also presented to one team recognizing good sportsmanship.
Building solar- and battery-powered cars requires skills in both math and science. The primary goal of the competitions is to generate enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills at a crucial stage in the development of young people. The competitions also help improve students' understanding of scientific concepts and renewable energy technologies, and encourages young people to consider technical careers at an early age.
2016 Model Car Competitions
Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 model car competitions! Check back early next year for information about the 2017 competitions.
Sources for Model Car Kits and Accessories
From the suppliers listed here, you can order kits containing solar cells modules and electric motors, surplus motors, and gears.
How To Build A Junior Solar Sprint Car
Step-by-step instructions for building a Junior Solar Sprint model car.
How to Build a Li-Ion Battery Car
Step-by-step instructions for building a lithium-ion battery-powered model car.
- Li-Ion Battery Safety, Testing, and Compliance
Teachers, mentors, and their students can use this publication to explore the components of model solar cars. It includes investigations and experiments to improve car performance.
So… You Want to Build a Model Solar Car
Written for teachers and students who want to participate in JSS, this document contains teacher background on photovoltaics, classroom activities for measuring solar cell output and understanding transmission components, tips on the vehicle construction process, hints for transmission design, formulas for calculating vehicle performance, and design considerations.
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Cars of Tomorrow:
Grades 9–12 (PDF's 1–4)
This document teaches students about the impact of today's transportation systems on their communities and explores the possible effects of shifting to alternative-fuel vehicles. The curriculum includes 35 hours of activities that help students develop problem-solving, creative-thinking, and decision-making skills.
Inside Tips on Parts and Construction
This booklet helps students identify possible options for obtaining parts to build the vehicle's drive train and chassis and provides formulas for determining appropriate gear ratios and wheel sizes.
An Introduction to Building a Model Solar Car: Student Guide for the Junior Solar Sprint Competition
This guide assists students in the selection of components and materials for creating model solar cars. The publication identifies potential problems based on components chosen for chassis, wheels and bearings, power source, transmission and body shell and discusses possible solutions.
Teacher and Mentor Guide
Suggestions to teachers and mentors for integrating JSS activities into their classroom curriculums are presented here. Useful background information about the role of a technical mentor, recommendations for teaching "hands-on" design in classroom groups, a description of the engineering design process, and an eight-week lesson plan can be gleaned from this guide.
How To Build A Junior Solar Sprint Car
Learn how to build a JSS car step by step.
Hosting a Model Car Event
Solar- and battery-powered car competitions can be hosted by individuals, organizations, or schools. Hosts coordinate regional competitions by contacting middle/junior high schools; assigning technical mentors to the students and teachers; and planning, organizing, and conducting races.
For more information about NREL's model car competitions, contact Marcus Giron, 303-275-3047.