Newswise — As the University of Michigan defends its title in the North American Solar Challenge, the weather could be a fierce rival, team members said.

The race starts July 13 in Dallas, Texas and ends 10 days and 2,400 miles later in Calgary, Alberta.

Compared with the World Solar Challenge that cut across the Australian desert in October, the clouds and storms of the American Midwest can pose problems for vehicles that need sunlight to run.

"The weather is a lot more challenging in the North American race," said Julia Hawley, a business major who is the team's business manager. "In Australia, it's pretty much sunny the whole time."

Already in the mock race, cars lost several hours when they had to seek cover during a hail storm. But the U-M team is prepared. It's a job of the strategy division, which includes a meteorologist, to study the weather and decide whether the team should push though a storm, wait it out, or even just slow down and let it pass.

Team Continuum (named after this generation of the car itself) is one of 24 teams competing in this race. Continuum finished seventh in its division in the World Solar Challenge in 2007 after an early crash set it back. The students had built a special "solar concentrator system" to track the sun and intensify it. But they're not allowed to use it in the North American race. They've replaced the concentrator system with traditional solar cells and made other modifications to the car.

"We're confident that the vehicle will be competitive," Hawley said.

The Michigan team has finished first in four of the eight North American Solar Challenges it has entered. It has finished third in the World Solar Challenge three times.

With more than 100 members, it is one of the largest student organizations on campus, including students from the College of Engineering, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Ross School of Business, the School of Art & Design, and the School of Education.

For more information:

U-M Solar Car blog: http://www.engin.umich.edu/solarcar/blog/U-M Solar Car website: http://www.engin.umich.edu/solarcar/

North American Solar Challenge: http://americansolarchallenge.org/

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Michigan Engineering:The University of Michigan College of Engineering is ranked among the top engineering schools in the country. At more than $130 million annually, its engineering research budget is one of largest of any public university. Michigan Engineering is home to 11 academic departments and a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The college plays a leading role in the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and hosts the world class Lurie Nanofabrication Facility. Michigan Engineering's premier scholarship, international scale and multidisciplinary scope combine to create The Michigan Difference. Find out more at http://www.engin.umich.edu/.

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