Solar racers take to the road

A fleet of high-tech cars hit the road this week, each vying to be the first to complete a 3,000km journey powered solely by the sun.

The vehicles, which took part in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge, set off from Darwin on the north coast of Australia on Sunday bound for the southern city of Adelaide.

A total of 38 specially-built solar cars were involved in this year’s race – which also marks the twentieth anniversary of the event – and the winning team, Nuna4 from the Netherlands, crossed the finishing line on Thursday.

Event director Chris Selwood said: “In an age where climate change and energy efficiency is on the agenda more than ever before, the significance and impact of the Panasonic World Solar Challenge has risen to a new level.

“This event not only promotes and celebrates educational and technical excellence through the spirit of friendly competition – it also draws much-needed attention to the necessity and ingenuity of sustainable transport by showcasing the latest in automotive technology.”

However, he told edie that not everything had gone as the competitors might have hoped.

“Of course, Mother Nature hasn’t let everything go the way of the solar cars,” said Mr Selwood.

“Overcast skies at various points along the route have challenged the energy management strategy of a couple of teams.

“However, what has been wonderful to witness is how teams have worked with each other to find solutions to common problems like this.”

Nineteen energy-efficient vehicles also took part in a separate class of the event using a wide variety of low-carbon technologies, such as biofuels and electricity, and monitored their carbon emissions throughout the journey.

Teams from 17 different countries, including Japan, Australia, the US and the UK took part in three different classes.

Under the rules, vehicles could only travel from 8am to 5pm each day and competitors had to camp each night wherever they ended up.

Kate Martin

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