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Published on October 19th, 2011 | by Charis Michelsen


Explosions, Bush Fires, and Solar Cars – the World Solar Challenge Continues

October 19th, 2011 by  

The Veolia World Solar Challenge in Australia is well under way, with 22 teams still competing under their own steam 4 days into the race. The solar cars, which start with 5kW of stored energy, must use solar power to get themselves from Darwin to Adelaide — about 1800 miles in total. The road is long and difficult, sometimes in surprising ways.

Aside from the challenge of producing enough energy with solar panels (which, in theory, all teams have properly anticipated), the solar cars also have to contend with local traffic. Australia is known for its massive road trains, for instance (up to 174 feet long!), or massive trailers carrying huge mining trucks taking up more than their fair share of the road. Such enormous vehicles generate crosswinds of up to 24mph – no matter how aerodynamically stable a solar car is, that much force will pull it sideways. (No cars have yet been sucked under the commercial vehicles so far.)

Surprise, Surprise

But even the traffic can be anticipated – just ask an Australian, and he’ll tell you about it. Harder to see coming are random arsonists setting the bush on fire. (No, really.) The three leading teams were all stuck in Wauchope overnight on the second day of racing, due to closed roads and nobody wanting to be set on fire. The remaining teams managed to avoid the mess entirely by camping out in Tennant Creek.

Then, after everything appeared to have quieted down, Tennant Creek received its fair share of excitement when Team Solar Philippines’ SIKAT II caught fire. As no one was in the vehicle at the time, there were no injuries. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the battery pack had overheated. Repairs were made, the battery pack was replaced, and the team continues the race.

Go, Solar Cars, Go!

There’s also some great video footage hosted by The Guardian showcasing some of the teams and their vehicles here:

The Show Will Go On

Despite the drama above and other disruptions – such as the Barrow Creek checkpoint relocating 60 miles south to Ti Tree due to uncertainty regarding the hotel’s infrastructure – the participants just keep on trucking. The top 10 teams and their positions are listed below. A complete list of Day 4 Provisional Results is available in PDF format at the World Solar Challenge Website, as well as further updates.

Source | Image: Veolia World Solar Challenge 

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About the Author

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.

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