Students from a small Missouri college build a solar car with parts from a hardware store, and compete against General Motors to win a solar car race from Orlando to Detroit.
Small College Wins Florida-to-Michigan Solar Car Race
TOM BROKAW, anchor:
The car of the future, zero to 60 in about, oh, two hours, but you do save a lot on gas if it doesn't rain. These are solar cars powered by the sun and nothing else. The race is on, 31 cars sponsored by General Motors: 11 days, 16,000 miles, from Orlando to Detroit. NBC's Bob Dotson tells us this will reassure all those who worry that America has lost its ingenuity.
BOB DOTSON reporting:
Few figured that solar cells would ever be a practical way to power a car until this little band of dreamers built one six years ago for $5,000 out of parts they bought at a hardware store. It became the first car to go coast to coast on nothing but sunshine.
These pioneers do not work for Ford or Honda. They are students at a tiny school better known for teaching truck drivers than producing solar cars. Yet, in a race three years ago, Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri, challenged all comers, beating every American entry but General Motors.
TONYA PROPPS: To compete with GM and compete with the world, that is really great for a two-year college that is stuck in the sticks.
DOTSON: Most of these folks aren't even engineers. Tonya Propps planned to be a veterinarian. Don Anderson studies accounting. Art Boyt is a zoologist.
ART BOYT: Well, I was very taken by Lindberg, and I was very taken by the Wright Brothers as well.
Dotson: That's what sparked this Kitty Hawk for solar cars.
BOYT: We're doing the sorts of things that art and engineering schools across the country turned down because it was too ambitious, and they--they said we don't have the resources to do this.
DOTSON: At Crowder, they substitute imagination for money. The students hooked a generator to the spinning wheels of their racer to help recharge its batteries, molded the frame out of materials so strong and light two people can now travel at highway speeds on no more power than it would take to drive a hair dryer. Right now, rain keeps such cars in the garage, but these folks dream of filling stations that would one day lease solar batteries already charged and electric parking meters you could plug into and fill your car while you go shopping. Pure fantasy?
Unidentified Man #1: We're looking at the future now.
Unidentified Man #2: I wouldn't want to take a gal to the drive-in movie in that. She's sitting clear on the other side of the car, and there ain't no way to reach her.
Unidentified Man #3: Couldn't reach her, could you?
DOTSON: The folks at Crowder College plan to work on that. If energy is going to fall from the sky, they are determined to find ways to use it. Despite a couple of afternoon thunder clouds tonight, they are in 11th place. They passed half a hundred gas stations and didn't even wave. Bob Dotson, NBC News, Floral City, Florida.