Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix 2023 wrap-up

We’re still decompressing after an exciting last week at the Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix. While we’ve sponsored the event before, as the new title sponsor of the event, we decided to bring a team out and really go behind the scenes.

As a background, the Formula Sun Grand Prix is part of the American Solar Challenge. On years when the ASC is held, FSGP serves as the qualifier event. FSGP is a yearly event that pits various universities from the US and abroad against each other in two vehicle classes: single-occupant vehicles and more complicated multi-occupant vehicles. The governing body and funder behind the races is the Innovators Educational Foundation.

The FSGP race this year at longtime sponsor Heartland Motor Speedway in Topeka, Kansas, was over eight hours a day over three days for a total of 24 total running hours. In the time before and after the race, the teams are often seen solar charging their vehicles on angles to catch the last bits of sun and the first bits in the morning to replenish their small backup batteries.

The cars almost completely run on sunlight during the race, and we saw a multitude of different techniques to maximize the driving distance over the various weather days.

Some interesting background I picked up is that since the 90s, when solar racing started, the technology has improved so much that event organizers have had to whittle down the amount of solar panels each school is allowed to have, from unlimited to 6 square meters to now 4 square meters. The cars were simply going too fast. Other safety/slowdown measures have been incorporated, like roll cages and requiring upright drivers. The “scrutineering” component is difficult and requires brakes and other equipment to be in top form.

2023 Electrek Formula Sun Grand Prix winners

The 2023 results are here, with the University of Florida winning the single occupancy vehicle race and Montreal winning the multi-occupancy race – there was even a dragstrip this year.

2024 and beyond

While we’re basking in the afterglow of this year’s race, just like the schools, we’ll soon begin getting ready for 2024 and beyond. Electrek would love to sponsor again, and we’re working with the Innovators Educational Foundation to make that happen.

We know there will be a lot more schools involved next year, and those schools are already gearing up for the competition, which will likely be on roads throughout the Western US (details TBD).

If you are into this kind of event, I highly encourage you to get involved, donate to the IEF, back your alma mater or local schools, and make plans to visit next year. It was great seeing Electrek readers at the event, and we hope to catch you again next year!

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