Every two years, teams of students from around the world gather in Australia to race solar-powered cars across the continent. Each day, the racers set out at 8 a.m. and have eight hours to travel as far as they can along an 1,800-mile route from Darwin, on the northern coast, to Adelaide, in the south. The World Solar Challenge began in 1987 as a call to build solar-powered cars, and has grown to 42 entrants this year.
The mission of the 2011 World Solar Challenge is to “stimulate research into and development of sustainable transport.” But while the car that won the very first challenge, GM’s Sunraycer, inspired the company to work on the EV-1, the electric vehicle made famous in the documentary Who Killed The Electric Car?, translating solar car technology into reality has proven tricky. So far, the only commercial uses of solar technology in vehicles are the solar-panel equipped Prius and the Ford Focus package that comes with a discount on panels that can be used to charge the car.
The World Solar Challenge is scheduled to begin October 16, so the teams are in the process of packing up their vehicles and shipping them off to the race grounds. Here’s a look at some of the top competitors.
Photo (cc) via flickr user alexhealing