The University of Minnesota’s Solar Vehicle Project, run entirely by students, has been creating highly energy-efficient solar vehicles since its founding in 1991. Their most recent vehicle, a futuristic silver 4-wheeled creation like something out of The Jetsons, was recently showcased in a 3,000-kilometer trek across the Australian Outback.

Students that partake in the Solar Vehicle Project join one of several teams that work together from design to construction through to the race. Their areas of expertise are aerodynamics, solar arrays, electrical, mechanical, and business. Together they need to ensure that the car is lightweight, fast, safe, and extremely efficient.

How do they manage to collaborate efficiently enough to design, construct and race the car in just 10 months? Through their sponsorship by PTC Creo, they were able to design and construct the car for the race in just 10 months.

Here’s how PTC Creo helped the team through each phase of the process.


The aerospace team was in charge of creating the solar panel-covered shell of the vehicle, and was responsible for reducing its drag. They also were tasked with key safety components, like the roll cage and the carbon fiber chassis.

PTC Creo helped the aerospace team test the various elements of the vehicle before construction, ensuring it could withstand impact from any and every direction. It also enabled the team to optimize the placement of key components, like the battery box and the motor.


PTC Creo also helped ensure the various components fit together properly. Said Tono Carlstrom the leader of the project’s mechanical team, “I designed all the parts that hold the batteries in place. I modeled them in PTC Creo, and I only had one chance to get it right. Then we used 3D printing and the batteries and housing fit in perfectly.”


The various teams were also able to use PTC Creo to collaborate on design plans and ensure the process ran smoothly. “We can easily access different revisions, make sure everything is up to date, keep everything on track, and have everyone constantly checking each other, to see if they are making sense or not,” Carlstrom explained. “Without PTC Creo, it would have taken much longer, because we would not be able to coordinate with each other as easily.”

The Finish Line

The team’s hard work paid off handsomely when they successfully completed the World Solar Challenge, having exceeded speeds of 80 MPH with their solely solar powered vehicle.

The project’s success is measured both tangibly – the team challenged expectations of what solar-powered vehicles can accomplish – and intangible. As team member Neil Dencklau said, “Running across the finish line was just an unbelievable experience.”

With PTC Creo, they were able to create lasting memories – and a vehicle that could change the way people view solar-powered vehicles.

Interested in learning more about PTC Creo and its 3D CAD capabilities? NxRev offers a variety of seminars, tutorials, and customer service to help users get the most out of the PTC suite. Give us a call at 408-986-0200 to find out more.