Gato del Sol IV
2010-2012. Gato del Sol IV took a huge, innovative jump from the previous cars. This car was designed and built from scratch, completely changing the aerodynamic shape and chassis design. The driver was moved further back and dropped lower to the ground, the shell was reshaped to be more aerodynamically efficient, custom light-weight 16-inch wheels were fabricated, and to top it all off (literally), a brand new Gallium Arsenide solar cell array was designed to bring in the most solar energy of any car previously built. Gato IV was built to be a light, high efficiency, top tier solar raycer.
And that’s exactly what it was…at least when it was on the track. Gato IV set the fastest lap record during the first half of the first race day of the 2011 Formula Sun Grand Prix. For the next 19 hours, other teams were trying to hunt down our time, but none were able to catch it. Unfortunately, in the three races Gato del Sol IV raced in, ASC 2010, FSGP 2011, and ASC 2012, reliability was always a problem. Each race, the team encountered some form of major problem that kept Gato IV from being a top finisher.
Gato del Sol IV is currently being used by the team to test new electrical developments, as well as being taken to shows, parades, and other PR events.
Gato del Sol III
2007-2010. One of the most noticeable things about Gato del Sol III (to someone who’s seen Gato II and Gato III) is that both cars have an almost identical body. This is because Gato III actually uses the same body from Gato II. Due to a change in race regulations, drivers could no longer lay down and had to sit up at a minimum angle of 27 degrees. To accommodate this rule change, the team simply cut off the canopy, made a new one, and called it Gato del Sol III, right? Unfortunately, it’s not nearly that easy.
A new chassis was built to avoid the short fatigue life of treated Aluminum and change the driver’s seating angle. After observing Gato II for a few years and noting what could been done better, many small performance changes were made. Add in some more reliable electronics, make a new top carbon fiber piece, put it all together, and you get Gato del Sol III, the most successful solar raycer to come from the state of Kentucky.
Gato del Sol III has been stripped of all parts, except for the chassis, and is in rolling condition. Gato III is currently up for adoption.
Gato del Sol II
2003-2007. This is the only known picture of Gato del Sol II. You can note a major difference from the cars you see today: there’s no room for the driver! This is because the driver was actually in a laying position, a common design among teams to make the car as flat as possible and reduce aerodynamic drag.
Firefly/Gato del Sol I
1999-2003. The first University of Kentucky Solar Car was designed in 1999 under the name Firefly. Firefly, as with most teams’ first car, was a big tank. The car had few designs for aerodynamics, rolled strong on 4 wheels, used many extremely heavy Lead-Acid batteries, and weighed-in at almost 1000 pounds! Despite some of these flaws, though, starting the team was all that mattered. There’s always time to build a new car and make changes, but without starting the team, we wouldn’t be here!
After a couple years, Stone Farm became a huge sponsor of the team. Stone Farm also owned the 1984 Kentucky Derby winner, Gato del Sol, which translates from Spanish to ‘Sun-Cat.’ As a solar team with a Wildcat mascot, this name deemed more fitting than Firefly, and so Gato del Sol I was born.
In 2003, Gato I attended the American Solar Challenge, but did not qualify. However, UC-Berkeley encountered some motor issues, so the team lent them their motor (the one still being used today!) so they could compete in the race. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of Gato I that can be found at this moment.