HAYS, Kan. — No gas, just battery and maybe a solar panel, high school students craft electric cars for the 16th annual High Plains ElectroRally at West Frontier Park in Hays on Thursday, Sept. 24.
One student drives on the quarter-mile track to complete the most laps within an hour. This endurance test is enjoyable for drivers and viewers because it’s not just an oval, it has left and right turns and goes up and down, said Joe Chretien, associate professor of applied technology at Fort Hays State University.
“We expect to pull in two to three more schools from the east,” said Chretien. Last year, high schools from western and central Kansas came for race day, and so did Olathe North High School from the Kansas City metropolitan area. Chretien expects Olathe North High School to register again this year.
Two classes of cars, Standard and Solar, compete in two races, the first 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 include solar panel power.
The races on Sept. 24 prepare students for the Kansas ElectroRally Championship Series in the spring.
“Drivers get practice, teams get to hone their skills,” said Chretien.
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 add additional weight. Students from North Central Kansas Technical College will inspect the vehicles.
The cars can hit a top speed of 40 miles per hour. Cars are not likely to go any faster because the track is not a simple straightway, and driving too fast from the start eats up battery power, said Chretien. “Those who last the longest start off slow.”
The top two finishers in both car classifications receive plaques, and one team will receive a team spirit plaque.
In the past, FHSU students have brought their own electric cars to the race; however, they are not eligible to win. This year, only one or two FHSU members from last year remain, which is not enough to run the cars.
“Hopefully, this will be the first year we draw students from other departments within the college,” said Chretien. “We also hope to draw students from the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science. This is a way for us to show solidarity,” said Chretien. “We work together. We don’t work apart.”
Sponsors provide lunch: Midwest Energy Inc., Sunflower Electric Power Corp., Pioneer Electric Cooperative Inc., and Western Cooperative Electric.
Registration opens at 7 a.m. inside the shelter house at the west end of Frontier Park. Schools register at no cost.
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.
“Fort Hays State’s grounds department supplies tables, chairs and barrels. Ellis County EMS also attends the race as onsite medical personal with an ambulance.”
“The City of Hays parks department does a great job of cleaning up the track,” said Chretien.
“Everyone in town is welcomed to come watch,” he said. “Bring lawn chairs.”