Epic World Solar Challenge 2017 kicks off in Australia

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3,000km route of World Solar Challenge; Credit: Wikipedia

In an epic challenge, solar powered cars are racing across Australia. Sunday October 8th, 2017 saw a group of 42 cars taking off from the northern tip in Darwin and making their way to the southern city, Adelaide. They will travel 3000 kms through the Australian Desert.

What makes this race unique? These cars are speeding through the country using only the power of the sun. The cars are covered with solar panels on the outer surface. These panels collect solar power and produce electricity. This electricity makes the motor turn, and that turns the wheels.

This is the 30th year of the World Solar Challenge that began back in 1987. It is essentially a ‘design competition to discover the world’s most efficient electric car.’ Over the past 30 years, the technology has kept getting better and better — and the cars have got faster.

The racing teams this year are from 26 countries around the world. Most teams are students from colleges in places such as India, Japan, the United States, Germany, Chile, and the Netherlands. There are some corporations participating too.

Nuna9 – Challenger Cass Solar Car –  Japanese Team

The cars range from sleek single-seater sports models to a low-slung five-seater family car. There are three race categories:

The Challenger class: These are likely to be the first ones across the line as they are purely focused on speed.

The second class, the Cruiser-class of cars include two or more seats. These are focused more on efficiency and practical design than on reaching the finish line before anyone else. Their technology is for commercial vehicles that are more practical for daily use.

The ones arriving near the end are likely to be in the non-competitive Adventurer class.

There are already a group of clear front-runners in the Challenger class; including Tokai Challenger from Japan, Nuna9 from the Dutch team Nuon, the Red Shift from the University of Twente, and the Novum from the University of Michigan. A map of the individual car positions can be found on the race website.

The winner of the last Challenger category race in 2015 was the Nuon Solar Team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Its average speed during the race was about 57 miles per hour (92 kph)!

Nuna 8, winner of the 2015 World Solar Challenge

The race officially ends on Sunday, October 15, in Adelaide, Australia. However, the winner will likely reach the southern city sometime on Thursday.

We currently drive cars which use gasoline. As the gasoline is used it creates carbon dioxide when it burns. This greenhouse gas traps heat in the atmosphere, adding to global warming. A solar-powered car doesn’t do that! Lets hope to have more solar powered cars on the road soon.

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