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World Solar Challenge goes live: Solar cars racing from north to south across Australia

The World Solar Challenge started about 8:30 AM local time, Darwin, Australia. 42 cars, in three categories, from 21 countries race for 3-7 days using mainly solar power. The race takes place every other year. Starting in Darwin and moving south, across the continent, ending in Adelaide, Australia.

The challenge’s primary goal is a ‘design competition to discover the world’s most efficient electric car.’

Live updates of the race can be found on the Twitter account. A map of the individual car positions can be found on the race’s website.

The main class of racers is the Challenger Class. In the last three competitions, the winner of these groups have averaged greater than 56mph across 1,878 miles. The Adventure Class is composed of cars from previous races and those who couldn’t get into the race for many reasons. The newest class of cars – the Cruiser Class – are aiming for practicality, actually trying to bridge the divide from a spartan race car to a 9-5 urban driver. Over the past summer, in the run up to this race, we’ve had at least three groups associated with the race grab headlines with ‘family ready’ solar cars.

During the past two competitions, the Delft University of Technology Nuon team has won with the Nuna 7 & 8. The university is racing the Nuna 9 this year. As of 11.47 AM local time, about three hours after the start, the Nuna 9 was close behind the leading team from Tokai University. Tokai won the competition the last two times before the Nuna group.

The Stella Lux was debuted as a family friendly, ‘energy positive’ urban vehicle. This means she is so efficient that she generates more energy than she consumes during the entire year, even in Dutch weather conditions! Urban drivers tend to be in the lower double digits of total miles – this car offers 30-180 mils of travel on solar depending on season. The battery holds far more energy than the car solar energy. The Stella team will race their Vie.

The interior of the Lux looks like people could be comfortable, definitely snug:

A group of former competitors – also from the Stella team – are launching the Lightyear. The group projects their car can cover 10,000-20,ooo km/year on solar power alone, depending on local climate. Even though they have yet to unveil the vehicle (they only released a teaser – embedded below), they are already taking reservations with a refundable deposit of €19.000 (~$22,000 USD) for an expected final price of €119.000 (~$136,000 USD).

A third vehicle, that is actually running in this race, doesn’t seem to be launching any commercial products – but it got all the features:”Violet looks like a family sedan, but uses as much power as a four-slice toaster…[s]he’s got entertainment and air conditioning systems, including navigation, reverse camera parking sensors, and there’s even Wi-Fi aboard. And she’s got plenty of front and rear boot space.” – Simba Kuestler of the Violet SunSwift.

Personally, I’m talking about this Cruiser Class of cars because of the practical aspects. Remember, the Stanford Solar Car Project was ‘key’ to Tesla’s inception, says Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. And now we’re seeing big name people put out solar roofs for electric cars. I’ve never thought a solar car was possible – the energy generation relative to energy use always seems challenging. However, my doubts are falling away.

Ninja article edit – check out the cool wiring:

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