This month dozens of competitors will gather in Darwin, Australia, for the start of the Global Green Challenge. This 1860 mile (3000km) showcase of state-of-the-art transport technologies pits environmentally friendly vehicles against the heart of the Outback as they race south towards the finish line in Adelaide. The event has evolved from the famous World Solar Challenge and now includes two classes: one for solar-powered vehicles and an "Eco Challenge" for other types of electric, hybrid and alternative fuel production and experimental vehicles.
Since it began in 1987 as the World Solar Challenge, this event has drawn many of the top solar and electric vehicle designers and teams from around the world.
Like the Progressive Automotive X-Prize contest, in which teams compete for a US$10 million prize to build a practical vehicle capable of getting the equivalent of 100 miles (161km) per gallon of gas, the Global Green Challenge is a showcase and a testing ground for the next generation of vehicle technology. The breadth of the technologies entered in the Global Green Challenge shows that electric cars are no longer a future technology - they have arrived.
The World Solar Challenge
The World Solar Challenge was created by Danish-born eco adventurer Hans Tholstrup, who, with with Larry Perkins, famously crossed Australia from Perth to Sydney in the Quietachiever, setting the solar powered car distance record. That record has since been broken several times. Participants in this year’s World Solar Challenge will travel 3000km in a single stage, with the teams camping by the roadside at the end of each day.
In the 22 years since the first World Solar Challenge was first held, solar car technology has seen dramatic improvements in solar panels, batteries, tires, and aerodynamics. Current vehicles can travel at average speeds of 100kph (62mph). In addition, the development of in-wheel motors and regenerative braking systems has increased solar car performance so much that the event organizers have created two vehicle classes: Challenge and Adventure.
In the Challenge Class participants are must meet certain regulations such as no more than 6 square meters (7.2 square yards) of solar array, and drivers must sit upright and be able to get in and out of the car unaided. In the Adventure Class, any vehicle that had qualified for a previous World Solar Challenge may be entered.
The Eco Challenge
The Eco Challenge portion of the Global Green Challenge is for production vehicles and modified or experimental vehicles that run on alternative fuels or use low-emission technology. These vehicles will compete over a series of stages with overnight stops at cities including Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Coober Pedy, and Port Augusta.
The Eco Challenge will be run according to the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) Alternative Energies Commission regulations. To allow performance comparisons between different types of vehicles, the FIA provides standardized metrics for the energy equivalents of various alternative fuels. Eco Challenge participants will vie to see who can go the farthest on the least amount of energy.
The 2009 Global Green Challenge will feature teams from 17 nations. Roughly 40 solar-powered cars will take part in the World Solar Challenge, and an additional 22 alternative fuel vehicles will participate in the Eco Challenge.
Returning four-time World Solar Challenge winners Nuon Solar Team return with their new Nuna5 solar racer. Other entrants include the MIT Eleanor (USA), the Tokai Challenger from Tokai University (Japan), and the Hammerhead fielded by Leeming High School (Australia).
Several major manufacturers have signed up for the Eco Challenge including Suzuki, Holden, and Ford, as well as electric sports car manufacturer Tesla. Independent teams include private school Annesley College, Deep Green Research, and Top Gear Magazine.
The 2009 Global Green Challenge will be held from October 24-31. For details, visit the Global Green Challenge web site and stay tuned for updates on Gizmag.com.