Every 2 years, contestants from around the world bring a collection of the weirdest, wackiest, wildest cars the world has ever seen to Australia and race them from Darwin in the north 1,864 miles to Adelaide in the south as part of the World Solar Challenge. The cars have only one thing in common — they are all powered in whole or in part by solar energy.
The most cutting edge cars compete in the Challenger Class, which is reserved for single seat cars optimized for low aerodynamic drag, low weight and most efficient placement of their solar panels. The cars are permitted to have only a 5 kWh battery onboard. Every other ounce of energy for the race has to be derived from the sun.
The Cruiser Class is intended for vehicles that are closer to ordinary street cars, although beyond the fact that they have 4 seats and a trunk, the resemblance to any conventional passenger car is remote. These cars are permitted to recharge from the grid part of the time. They are judged on several criteria, including ease of access, comfort and “desirability.” Finally, there is the Adventure Class, which is open to cars from prior contests or any other solar powered vehicles. Call it the “run what you brung” category.
The contestants are required to stop every day at 5 pm and camp for the night wherever they happen to be at that time, according to Green Car Reports. The recently ended 2015 Solar Challenge attracted 40 teams from 20 countries. In the end, the Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands took the top prize in the Challenger Class, making the journey in 37 hours, 56 minutes for an average speed of 56.9 miles per hour. Second place went to another Dutch competitor, Solar Team Twente.
Completing the sweep for the Netherlands was the Stella Lux car entered by Solar Team Eindhoven. The host country won the Adventure Class competition, thanks to the TAFE SA team.
The Solar Challenge cars are far from mainstream vehicles- though they’re getting there!- but they help train the designers and engineers who will bring us the electric cars of tomorrow. Many teams have already begun preparing for the next Solar Challenge competition, scheduled for 2017.
World Solar Challenge
Photo Credits: 2015 World Solar Challenge.