Skip to main content

NREL Model Car Competitions

NREL hosts car competitions which include building and racing solar- and battery-powered model vehicles. Middle school teams from all around Colorado participate in this fun, educational, and exciting event every May.

A photo of students competing in NREL's Solar and Lithium Ion model car races in Colorado.

Building solar- and battery-powered cars requires skills in both math and science. The goals of the competition include:

  • Generating enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Improving students' understanding of scientific concepts and renewable energy technologies
  • Encouraging young people to consider technical careers at an early age.

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.

2017 Model Car Competitions

The competition this year will be held on May 20, 2017. To register, please contact Marcus Giron.

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. Download the kit and component supplier listPDF for Junior Solar Sprint and Lithium-Ion Battery model cars.

Junior Solar Sprint

Lithium-Ion Battery Cars

Resources

How To Build A Junior Solar Sprint Car

How to Build a Li-Ion Battery Car 

Li-Ion Battery Safety, Testing, and Compliance

Classroom InvestigationsPDF

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 CarPDF

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 14)

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 ConstructionPDF

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 CompetitionPDF

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 GuidePDF

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.

Contact

For more information about NREL's model car competitions, contact Marcus Giron, 303-275-3047.