World Solar Challenge

This is the first time Green Path has covered a sporting event (and may be the last) but it is a pretty special event: the World Solar Challenge is a cross-continental road race for solar powered cars.

2009 winner, Tokai Challenger
The 2009 winner, Tokai Challenger

The official site announced that, “The field for this year’s World Solar Challenge 2011 Darwin to Adelaide is the largest yet. On Sunday October 16, 42 teams from 21 countries will take to the starting line, among them three teams from Australia, to do battle for line honours 3,000 kilometres away, in Adelaide.”

Good ol’ Wikipedia is better on the history than the official site:

The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The race has a 20-year history spanning nine races, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987. The objective of this competition is to promote research on solar-powered cars. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 2005, 22 teams from 11 countries entered the primary race category. …

By 2005, several teams were handicapped by the South Australian speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph), as well as the difficulties of support crews keeping up with 130 km/h (81 mph) race vehicles. It was generally agreed that the challenge of building a solar vehicle capable of crossing Australia at vehicular speeds had been met and exceeded. A new challenge was set: to build a new generation of solar car, which, with little modification, could be the basis for a practical proposition for sustainable transport.

That change of emphasis, with its accompanying rule changes, has effectively capped the average speed of the winners at about 100 kph, even as the technology keeps improving.

The latest news on this year’s race as I write after lunch on the 18th, is that they are half way, about to reach Alice Springs, and making good time – hitting speeds of 130 kph, in fact – after delays caused by road trains and bushfires.

Thursday 20 October: We have a result – the Japanese team won, defeating the Dutch by a very small margin. Read more at ABC News.

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