New York, NY — June 24, 2021

On Thursday morning, three college students from Michigan launched their journey from New York City to Los Angeles in a solar car, which they manufactured on their own, and is powered entirely by the sun. They will be the first drivers to ever attempt to trek across the country in a solar vehicle. 

They dubbed the project, the “Cannonball Sun,” a play on another vehicle event called the “Cannonball Run,” which involved a slew of drivers racing from New York City to California. 

“We’re promoting renewable energy,” said Will Jones, an engineering student at the University of Michigan and one of the founders of the Cannonball Sun. “All of us believe that electric cars, solar cars, and solar energy are the future. When we complete this, it will be a huge proof of technology.”

While stuck at home learning remotely in the fall, Jones, and Kyle Samluk, an engineering student at Michigan Technological University (MTU), conceived the idea of building and racing a solar car, which they named, “Pink Skies.” They toiled on the vehicle throughout the winter and when school let out in the spring, they committed to the project full time, working 14 hours a day on it.

The drivers will traverse a total of about 3,000 miles and hope to cover about 300 miles a day. The goal is to complete the trip in two weeks.

The issue they’re most worried about is weather, since the car functions best in auspicious conditions. They plan to start each day at sunrise and conclude at sunset to maximize the vehicle’s exposure to the sun. 

“We’re 100 percent excited and 100 percent nervous,” said Jones. “It’s an adventure. It’s going to be a crazy road trip.”

Two mobility companies, ParkMyFleet and Charge Across America, have stepped up to sponsor the Cannonball Sun. ParkMyFleet develops mobility hubs across the US that meet the varying needs of fleet and automobile companies. Charge Across America, scheduled for the fall, is another unprecedented racing event. A number of teams of drivers will trek from New York City to Los Angeles, over the course of nine days, using only electric vehicles. 

“I’m so impressed with the vision and the ambition of these engineering students,” said Kristin Slanina, managing director of Charge Across America. “This was an obvious and natural partnership for us.”

Slanina said she also feels personally connected to the event. As an MIT engineering student in 1991, Slanina helped build a solar car, which she raced with her team at the Solar and Electric 500, the American Tour de Sol and the Swiss Tour de Sol, setting new records. 

“I’m so pleased to help finance innovation from young people who will be the key players in revolutionizing the automobile industry,” said Mike Landau, CEO of ParkMyFleet.

Jones and Samluk will be joined by Danny Ezzo, an engineering student at MTU, to help with keeping the car safe and functioning properly. The trio will be followed by a support truck, towing a trailer replete with supplies and spare parts to help the team complete their trip.

ParkMyFleet/ChargeAcrossAmerica Contact:

Brooke Taibl: 720-965-4309

Cannonball Sun Contact:

Meghan Gillespie: 517-898-8718

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