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2011 World Solar Challenge gets underway down under


October 16, 2011

The 2011 World Solar Challenge kicked-off today in Darwin, Australia

The 2011 World Solar Challenge kicked-off today in Darwin, Australia

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The 11th World Solar Challenge got underway on Sunday with participants starting out from Darwin, Northern Territory, on a 3,000-kilometer (1,864 mile) solar-powered car race across the red center of Australia. The start follows three days of scrutineering and a day of qualifying that saw Solar Team Twente from the Netherlands take pole position in a field of 37 teams from 20 countries. But the margin was tight, with the team's 21Connect solar car coming in just 0.00.3 seconds ahead of fellow compatriots and four time winners, the Nuon Solar Team.

21Connect crossed the start line at 8:30 am local time on Sunday, October 16th, followed by the remainder of the field spread out at two-minute intervals. Unfortunately for Solar Team Twente, an electrical problem that required the motor controller to be replaced saw them finishing day one in sixth place. This allowed Japan's Tokai University, which took first place honors in 2009 with Challenger, to take the lead at the end of day one with their car Challenger2. The Dutch Nuon team held onto second place, with the University of Michigan slotting into third, local Australian team Aurora taking fourth and the Apollo Solar Car Team from Taiwan rounding out the top five at the end of day one.

Twelve of the initial 37 starters didn't make it to the Katherine checkpoint by the required time at the end of day one, reducing the number of teams still in the race to 25. We can expect that number to drop even further over the next couple of days as the cars make their way south through the harsh Australian continent where temperatures are currently reaching into the mid 30's Celsius (around 95° F).

Gizmag will be at the finish line in Adelaide this week to see which team takes out the honors in the 2011 World Solar Challenge.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick
1 Comment

The regulations of this race insure that the vehicles entered will never be practical. They require that all sunlight be direct and limits the size of solar arrays. And even that is done with bias allowing larger arrays of silicon cells than other photovoltaic. Limiting the size of the cars is one thing, but limiting the use of the solar technology? That is self-defeating.

\"D.5 Challenge Class Array Area D.5.1 For silicon cells the allowable area is 6 m2. D.5.2 For any other photovoltaic technology the allowable area is 3 m2.\"

Like you want super delicate silicon cells on your car that you will break if you sneeze too hard.

The regulations also make the event boring with each vehicle virtually identical. Why not allow various kinds of reflectors and whatever kind and quantity of solar cells or for that mater open it up to parabolic collectors etc.

I think even that is not broad enough...it should be open to any technology that gets its energy from the environment while in motion: wind, solar, whatever. It just has to be reasonably safe and stay within the size limits. A big sail or parachute should not be allowed as it hampers control and may interfere with other vehicles but there is still quite a bit of room for other approaches.

What they have promotes very little imagination or innovation. The winner is the one with the most expensive solar cells, fanciest lithium battery, most expensive motor/generator and the recipient of the best computer modeling. All of those things already have momentum...how about fostering imagination, innovation, and resourcefulness with less. That is real engineering.

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