Flying Dutch take early lead in World Solar Challenge race


Dutch teams in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge race in Australia have started brightly – with two leading the pack and another achieving a 1,500km (932 miles) on a single charge.

More than 40 cars from academic institutions and private sponsors are competing in the event which got underway on Sunday. It sends solar powered cars on a series of races and challenges 3,000km through Australia, from Darwin to Adelaide.

According to a report from organisers at lunchtime local time on Tuesday, “Red One” driven by the Netherland’s Team Twente was leading the race, having got into pole on the second day. Just 11 seconds behind was Nuon Solar Team’s “Nuna 8” racer, Team Twente’s compatriots who were winners of the previous biennial race, in 2013.

Next behind Nuon’s car was the University of Michigan’s effort, which had lost the lead position on Day Two.

The cars and teams must strictly adhere to a number of rules, which include only being allowed a small capacity of energy storage batteries on board. The majority of power to run the cars must therefore come directly from contact with sunlight. The idea is that managing energy is a critical factor in the race. Teams must use forecasting and their own judgement to assess their progress.

Over the past few years, the technology used has evolved rapidly. On the second day of racing Solar Team Twente reported that Red One was travelling at an average speed of 91 kilometres (57 miles) per hour and hit a top speed of 103 kilometres (64 kilometres) per hour. Meanwhile, “Stella Lux”, a “solar family car” driven by Team Eindhoven, managed to travel a 1,500 kilometre distance on a single charge in weather that, according to organisers, reached “near perfect conditions…with favourable winds and clear skies”.

Also taking part are teams from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Poland, the UK, South Korea, Canada, China, Singapore, Indonesia and several other countries, including prestigious universities such as Stanford, Cambridge and MIT and Australia’s University of New South Wales, which is well known for its solar research. The event finishes in Adelaide city centre on 25 October.

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