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Solar cars follow Santa Fe Trail

MCPHERSON – On Aug. 3-4, solar cars participating in the 2021 American Solar Challenge on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail will be coming to Midway Motors in McPherson. The solar cars are expected to arrive between 2:15 and 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3, depending on traffic, weather, and energy management – remember they are powered by solar energy! The public can watch the teams arrive and choose their favorite team to follow throughout the event. The cars will be on display at Midway Motors, 2045 East Kansas in McPherson from 6-8 p.m. and teams will be available to talk about their cars and answer questions.

The Quivira Chapter, local chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, is working with Midway Motors to host the stop in McPherson. Chapter members will be on hand to provide information about the Santa Fe Trail in the area. In addition, the McPherson College Auto Restoration program will have a few of its classic antique cars on display in the evening. The event is free and open to the public.  

On Wednesday, Aug. 4, the solar cars will start the next stage of the event beginning at 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to come out and cheer them on to the next stop. 

The American Solar Challenge, in partnership with the National Park Service, will feature collegiate solar car teams in the road rally style event Aug. 3–7, along portions of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail to commemorate the Santa Fe Trail’s 200th anniversary. Participants and their solar powered vehicles will make the journey from Missouri to New Mexico, following in the footsteps of traders who used the Trail between 1821 and 1880 and following routes that cross the cultural landscapes and homelands of many Indigenous peoples. 

Traveling more than 900 miles, the solar cars will visit several towns and sites along the Santa Fe Trail, including: Independence, Mo.; Council Grove; McPherson; Dodge City; Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta, Colo.; Las Vegas, N.M.; and Santa Fe, N.M. Stops along the route will give visitors the unique opportunity to see the solar cars and explore the history and landscape of the Santa Fe Trail. National Park Service information and fun activities for kids related to the Trail will be available. 

Every two years, the Innovators Educational Foundation (IEF) organizes the American Solar Challenge, a collegiate student design competition to design, build, and drive solar-powered vehicles in a cross-country time/distance event. In 2021, teams will have the opportunity to drive additional loops in certain locations along the route to increase their distance, further showcasing the capabilities of their energy-efficient vehicles. 

Visit the ASC 2021 competition page at for more information and a current list of registered teams. Teams are split into two classes: the tradition single-occupant vehicles with space only for the driver and the newer multi-occupant vehicles, which are scored on their practicality features in addition to their performance on the road. The week prior to the American Solar Challenge, all solar cars will go through a scrutineering and qualifying process, resulting in a final team list for the event.  

Innovators Educational Foundation expressed thanks to all of the 2021 sponsors and location hosts for their contributions to the event. Their support and the dedication of the university teams and volunteer staff makes this multi-disciplined, experiential learning event possible.