The World Solar Challenge, the biennial, PV-powered race across Australia was dominated by the Dutch this year. Teams from the Netherlands won both the overall challenge in the Clipsal & Schneider Electric Challenger Class and also in the new Michelin Cruiser Class.
The World Solar Challenge has a long history, stretching back to 1982. Until this year each challenge consisted of just one race. But in 2013, the organizers expanded the race to three distinct classes, the aforementioned classes and the GoPro Adventure Class.
The challenger class was the fastest of all three and for the first time, vehicles in the class were required to have four wheels. This class was previously dominated by three-wheeled vehicles. This year that class was relegated to the newly introduced adventure class, which allowed teams to compete with previous entries. The cruiser class, also new for 2013, was designed to show a more practical approach to the solar-powered car. In that class, the cars had to carry both a driver and a passenger and could recharge overnight.
Apparently the Netherlands were best prepared for the new challenges. From Delft University, the Nuon team’s Nuna 7 won the overall award for completing the grueling 3,000 kilometer (1,864 mile) race from Darwin to Adelaide in 33 hours and 3 minutes. The Nuna 7 averaged 90.71 kilometers per hour (56.4 miles per hour). And while the car may have been able to go faster, teams must follow speed limits or face time penalties for exceeding the limit.
The Tokai Challenger from Japan’s Tokai University came in second place, crossing the finish line 36 hours and 22 minutes. During the final, rainy day the Tokai team’s solar car wasn’t able to keep up with Nuna7. Nuon attributed its car’s capability to a secret weapon. “The secret weapon of Nuna7 were the ‘concentrators’: a device used to optimize (or concentrate) the efficiency of solar power. It meant that the car was fueled with additional energy for those moments when the sun does not shine or shines less. Today it appeared that the strategy of the Nuon Solar Team has been very successful,” the team said of the victory.
Those concentrators must really have helped on the final day. The World Solar Challenge said: “It was a close fought battle until the last 50 kilometers. The two teams shared the final checkpoint in Port Augusta just minutes apart. But as the rain came down and the clouds rolled in it became clear the Japanese team in their solar car Tokai Challenger were not going to be able to close the gap. There was drama for Team Tokai who were forced to stop and recharge.”
In the cruiser class—which may have the most real-life relevance, since the cars are designed for practicality and more like today’s electric vehicles—the Netherlands’ Solar Team Eindhoven also took first place, completing the race in 40 hours and 14 minutes. It was followed by Germany’s Hochschule Bochum SolarCar Team, which finished in 41 hours and 38 minutes. Australia’s Aurora Vehicle Association won the adventure class with a time of 38 hours and 39 minutes.