Mechanical engineering's Bryon Spells (right) points out recent welding work to SolarPack teammates while checking on the progress of their car at Eastern Rod and Customs.

When NC State competes in a solar-vehicle race this summer, its entry will stand out in one unusual way: It will look like a car.

SolarPack, the team building the vehicle, is focusing on practicality as well as performance and energy efficiency. That’s why it designed a conventional car, with room for passengers and space for groceries, rather than the small single-person vehicles typically seen at the American Solar Challenge.

“I told the team, ‘Let’s make something compelling that the consumer actually wants to buy,’” says senior Bryon Spells, SolarPack’s leader.

Spells and dozens of other students have spent the past few months designing, building and raising money for their vehicle. Their goal is to cross the finish line not as first-place winners but with a vehicle that will illuminate new possibilities for solar power and automobiles.

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Originally published January 10, 2018. Written by Suzanne Wardle.

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