Electric cars to test their endurance at the High Plains ElectroRally

Electric cars, designed and constructed by high school students, will race to complete the most laps at the annual High Plains ElectroRally at West Frontier Park in Hays on Thursday, Sept. 25.

The ElectroRally is a "one-hour endurance race for electric cars," said Joe Chretien, associate professor of applied technology at Fort Hays State University. The races this Thursday are "tune-up races" for the Kansas ElectroRally Championship Series in the spring. Students can see what inspection is about, test their cars and practice driving, he said.

Two classes of cars will compete in each of two races, one at 10:30 a.m. and a second at 12:30 p.m. Standard Class cars meet the criteria for standard Electrathon America cars. Solar Class cars are similar to standard but are powered by solar arrays.

Each car has an electric motor and up to 74 pounds of battery, and each car must have at least 180 pounds of cargo. If the driver weighs less than 180 pounds then students have to add extra weight, said Chretien. Students from North Central Kansas Technical College will inspect the cars.

The cars go about 40 to 50 miles per hour, and it is the drivers who have "lead foot" that won't finish the race because they "eat up" more power from the start, said Chretien. "Those who last the longest start off slow."

Chretien expects 20 to 30 cars to show up. Schools that have registered are Hays High School with four cars, Wheatland High School in Grainfield, Scott City High School, Stockton High School, Clearwater High School and Olathe North High School. Pre-registration is not required.

Some schools, like Hays High School, construct their cars as part of a class. Other schools construct cars as an extra-curricular activity.

Plaques are awarded to the top two finishers in both car classifications. A plaque for team spirit is also awarded.

Five cross-discipline FHSU students will also participate in the race but are not eligible to win, said Chretien. In hopes for a faster car, they plan to test a car hooked up to two 42-volt lithium phosphate batteries from China. It will require them to add a different connection so the car can switch between a standard 12-volt battery and the 42-volt battery.

Volunteers begin at 6:30 a.m. marking the quarter-mile road course with hay bales and orange road cones. Students enjoy the pavement road course because it is not just an oval; it goes "up and down" and "winds around", said Chretien.

Schools register at no cost. Midwest Energy, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and Western Electric Co-op sponsor the event, the brats and burger lunch and the plaques. Registration opens at 7 a.m. inside the shelter house at the west end of Frontier Park.

Kevin Vering, an electronics instructor at NCK Tech, will serve as race steward, making sure that all is in order and that participants are aware of the rules and practice good sportsmanship.

"Everyone in town is welcomed to come watch," said Chretien. "Bring lawn chairs."

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