NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A team of Rutgers students who designed and built a solar-panel covered car will travel to Texas to compete against 24 other colleges and universities from the United States and Canada in an annual solar car race.

It will be the Rutgers team’s first race using a solar car the School of Engineering students built.  Wide, flat and aerodynamically curved, the car resembles a section sliced out of an airplane wing with a narrow cockpit stuck on top. The students started building the car six months ago with a donated chassis and car body.

Paveena Sachdeva, an accounting major at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, is part of the team of engineering, business and art school students, who will compete in the Formula Sun Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, between July 3-6.

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“I joined the team because I am very big into sustainability and this is an area that I can use my business knowledge while promoting sustainability at Rutgers, across the country and internationally,” Sachdeva said. “For that, I am extremely proud. It’s a really special group.”

The team includes an eclectic mix of Rutgers-New Brunswick students from the business and engineering schools, and the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Business students, including Sachdeva, led the team’s marketing and fundraising efforts, which were essential to pay for the technology needed to build the car. They are also leading the logistical work involved in transporting the car cross-country and bringing the car to public schools across the state to promote sustainable energy and show students what they can achieve with higher education.

Mason Gross students are handling the photo, video and design components integral to the team’s marketing and outreach.

Engineering students built the car, which began with a chassis stripped of all electrical and mechanical components. They redesigned the car’s interior and are repairing the solar arrays and installing data collection and other systems needed to make a smart and sustainable vehicle.

When complete, the car will have more than 400 rechargeable lithium battery cells, powered by 250 solar cells producing 110 watts of power in peak sunlight. The motor may be able to reach 65 miles per hour, using no more wattage than a hairdryer. 

Sachdeva, in addition to serving on the team’s business and operations committee, is also one of two drivers who will switch off every two hours amid the expected 96 degree heat during the three-day race. The team that drives the most laps around the track will win. 

Alexander Sanducu, the chief engineer and project manager of the car, is one of eight team members who will head to Austin for the race. He just graduated from the Rutgers School of Engineering with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering and will be furthering his studies at Rutgers in a masters program. His group of engineers is working nonstop to fine-tune the car as the competition nears. He said the diverse perspectives of business, art and engineering students have been critical to the team’s success.

“As engineers who want desperately to make this car perfect, we didn’t want to show the car to anyone until we drove it,” Sanducu said. “The business team pushed us out of our comfort zone for the better, by telling us how important it is to show off our work and spread the word about sustainability. Listening to other perspectives has made us a better team and will help us no matter what we do in the future.”