Media briefing - Thursday, August 7, 10 a.m. - Meeting with Esteban VII, first Canadian team since 2003 to reach the top ranks of the legendary American Solar Challenge competition

MONTREAL, July 31, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - On Thursday, August 7, at 10 a.m., media representatives and the Folie Technique science camp's 200 young participants are invited to meet the team behind the Esteban solar vehicle, fourth-place finisher in the celebrated American Solar Challenge race, which took place July 21 to 28 in the United States.

Just back from the U.S. with their solar-powered vehicle, and thrilled with their adventure, the Esteban team members will tell all sorts of stories about their experience, and introduce their vehicle. Test drives will be held in the parking lot behind Polytechnique Montréal. Videos and photos of the competition will be available for the media.

A race with very demanding qualifying rounds

Relay racing 2,700 kilometres in eight days across seven American states, from Austin, Texas, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, aboard a solar-powered vehicle that uses only as much energy as a hair dryer — that's the challenge carried off by the 19 members of Esteban VII.

A highly popular event in the U.S., the American Solar Challenge brings together international teams that must undergo various technical inspections and pass three days' worth of rigorous qualifying rounds to be able to take part in the final race. Of some 20 vehicles that entered this year (from the U.S., Canada, India, Iran and Puerto Rico), only 10 managed to make it past the qualifying rounds. The race itself, on a route full of tight turns and steep hills, put the solar vehicles to a gruelling test. In the end, only eight of them reached the finished line.

A first for a Québec team

This is the first time a Québec team has reached the top ranks in the American Solar Challenge (the last such successful Canadian performance was in 2003, when a University of Waterloo team placed third). Working with a budget one-sixth to one-eighth of those of its American competitors, the Esteban VII made its mark with its technical qualities, particularly its cruising speed, which hit 75 km/h, well beyond the expected 60 km/h.

As an extra shot in the arm for the Polytechnique students, their team won the Spirit of the Event Award at the competition's closing, acknowledging the team members' skills and professionalism.

"I was very impressed by how well my team performed," said Esteban Director Gabriel Brassard, an engineering physics student at Polytechnique Montréal. "While dealing with the difficulties of the competition, we remained united and well-organized."

Motor breakdown, fire, storms, snakes and scorpions… the race was practically an obstacle course!

The Polytechnique team dealt with quite a few challenges. One of its vehicle's two wheel-motors broke down during the qualifications, and that was just the start!

"To continue the qualifying rounds, we had to change our car's propulsion system so that it would work with just one motor. But that would have handicapped us for the race itself," Mr. Brassard recalled. "By a stroke of luck, the CalSol - UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team came to our rescue. Since their vehicle didn't qualify, they lent us their motors. It was a wonderful gesture of student solidarity, and it made it possible for us to finish the race."

Next, a battery belonging to a team that was sharing the same garage as Esteban caught fire, so all of the Esteban team's equipment ended up getting completely soaked by the sprinkler system.

Nature also helped complicate things, not only by bringing stormy and cloudy days, but also by having a few not-so-friendly animals drop by the campsite where the team spent their nights during the qualifying rounds.

"We heard coyotes wandering near the campsite, and we came across rattlesnakes and scorpions near our tents. It was quite the exotic adventure!" Mr. Brassard recounted.

The Esteban VII solar car by-the-numbers:

  • 45 students worked on the project for over 2 years.
  • The group had an annual budget of more than $100,000 to design the car.
  • The car weighs 290 kg with the driver (reduced by 30% compared with Esteban VI, which weighed 420 kg).
  • The car reached a cruising speed of 75 km/h.
  • The top speed reached was 85 km/h.
  • The new propulsion system includes two custom-made wheel-motors.
  • The car has a carbon fibre chassis.
  • It uses 390 solar cells.

About Polytechnique Montréal
Founded in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one of Canada's leading engineering teaching and research institutions. It is the largest engineering university in Québec for the size of its graduate student body and the scope of its research activities. With over 41,400 graduates, Polytechnique Montréal has educated nearly one-quarter of the current members of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. Polytechnique provides training in 15 engineering specialties, employs 248 professors and has more than 7,500 students. It has an annual operating budget of over $210 million, including an $82-million research budget.


WHAT: Media briefing to meet the Esteban VII team, which finished fourth in the American Solar Challenge

WHEN: Thursday, August 7, 2014, 10 a.m.

Polytechnique Montréal
2500, chemin de Polytechnique
Bell Amphitheatre, 6th floor of the main building
Located on the Université de Montréal campus
Université-de-Montréal métro
Parking available behind the main building
Campus map:

SOURCE: Polytechnique Montréal

For further information:

and interviews:
Annie Touchette
Communications, Polytechnique Montréal
514 231-8133

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