UMaine Students Set for Tour de Sol

Six University of Maine students are putting the final touches on two solar-powered vehicles, the Solar Black Bear and the Phantom Sol, that will compete in the annual Tour de Sol electric vehicle showcase and race.

ORONO, Maine – May 14, 2002 [] The Tour de Sol is set for May 12-16 and will run from Washington, D.C. to New York City. The tour is sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). “This being the fourth year that UMaine has participated in the Tour de Sol, I’m pretty tickled about this project,” says Paul van Steenberghe, faculty advisor of the team. “It doesn’t cost anything to run the Solar Black Bear, it’s free: free of cost and free of pollution.” Van Steenberghe began an alternative-powered vehicle student group in 1996 with the idea of creating a solar bike. In 1998, the concept of a solar car was born. The Solar Black Bear, made from a small pickup truck donated by Bangor Hydro-Electric, is a three-time winner in the solar commuter category. The Phantom Sol, a solar vehicle designed and constructed by the students, will be entered in the Tour de Sol for the second consecutive year. The students have worked extensively to improve the vehicle’s endurance, speed and reliability. Van Steenberghe advises the student group with the help of UMaine colleague Ben Dresser. The two received the NESEA George Bradford Teacher award at last year’s Tour de Sol for their dedication and leadership. The students working with van Steenberghe and Dresser meet twice a week as a group. They also work individually as time allows, sometimes up to three nights a week and all weekend. “It is fun working on the vehicles. You get a great sense of accomplishment,” says Chad Wright, sophomore member of the team. “Paul is very beneficial and dedicated to the cause and the group.” The road rally will begin on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 14. During the race, the UMaine Solar Vehicle Team will earn points for high energy efficiency and low greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reliability, acceleration and handling. On the way to New York, the team will make stops at events in Sandy Point State Park, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., and Trenton, N.J. Four days after they leave the starting line, the team will cross the finish line in New York City. The Tour de Sol will culminate with an awards ceremony and final festival in Manhattan.
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