There are a number of World solar challenges inviting solar powered cars to compete. It's rather confusing to the general public, hence, we prefer to call the various challenges by their geographical location, followed by 'solar challenge. There is also a solar boat called Solar Navigator, which project is trying to set a genuine around the world record. It could be argued that cars could never set a world record, unless the term is used to describe the top speed.
The World Solar Challenge motivates research and development into harnessing solar energy for future transport needs for many years. Competitors, driven by a motivation to win the greatest solar event in the world, can also rest easy in the knowledge that they are contributing towards a vital search for sustainable transport alternatives for future generations. The space age cars which travel at various speeds between Darwin and Adelaide on the sun's radiation and human's ingenuity alone give people an appreciation of a cleaner, better future using solar energy.
Danish born Adventurer, Hans Thostrup, created the World Solar Challenge. To understand what lead him to this, we should try and understand the man. Born in 1944, Tholstrup became a household name when he became the first person to circumnavigate Australia in a 16 foot open boat.
Years of participating in motor sport around the world, especially car rallies saw Hans busy wasting fuel until the fuel crisis in the late seventies. A new life began when he was inspired to find out how far rather than how fast you could go on a litre of petrol. This led to winning economy runs in cars and the establishment of the world's first economy run for trucks, and proving that driving style can be responsible for 30% of the fuel used in the transport of goods.
Another idea, sponsored by BP, was the crossing of Australia on just solar power. Larry Perkins helped Hans to drive the world's first solar car, the "Quiet Achiever", the 4052 kilometres between Sydney and Perth in 20 days. This, the ultimate energy saving crossing, was ten days faster than that by the first petrol engine car.
Hans was determined to build on these developments and continue to drive on the strength of sunshine. With man's first walk on the moon still fresh in people's memory, the time was ripe for solar invention. He felt that a race was the answer and thus the energy R&D event, the World Solar Challenge, was born.
The first World Solar Challenge was staged in 1987, with a field of 23 fantastic cars led by the GM Sunraycer which completed the trip with an average speed of 67km/h. The cars in 1990 were a great improvement on 1987. Many competitors returned with the strength of experience, and new entries had another three years of R&D to create and refine their vehicles. The 1990 winner was the Biel team from a Swiss Engineering School. The townsfolk of Biel were responsible for donating one dollar each towards the success of the entry. With a school winning such a prestigious event, the World Solar Challenge became known as "Brain Sport".
1993 saw the 1987 GM Sunraycer record broken. Honda took the honours over Biel, and travelled 803 kilometres in one day. Yet again the entire field was impressive, and a sign of the event growing from strength to strength.
The goal of finishing the World Solar Challenge in four days was realised in 1996, when Honda repeated their performance with another stunning win, and a record average speed of 89.76 km/h. For most other competitors however, the race was far from over, with the remainder of the field spread out over 1700 km of the Stuart Highway. Over the ensuing six days a further 32 of the original 46 competitors would cross the finish line to complete their epic 3000km journey.
Following the 1996 event, Tholstrup sold up. The eventual winner of the bids was the State of South Australia, who announced an event in 1998, however many reasons lead to the "deferment" of the 1998 event, which was eventually run in 1999 under the new leadership of Chris Selwood. The 1999 event saw 43 teams from 14 countries traverse the continent, and the Australian "Aurora" team won the event.
A commitment to support the International Solar Energy Society World Congress in 2001 saw the event restaged once more, with new records set. 2001 also saw the introduction of the "Demonstration Class" which was designed to showcase vehicles exhibiting practical technology that has evolved from the World Solar Challenge.
An in depth evaluation of the aims and outcomes of the event, together with a survey of teams and stake holders showed the World Solar Challenge to be the premier solar car event in the world, with a large majority supporting a biennial program.
The 2003 North American Solar Challenge was a cross-country solar car rayce that was held from July 13 to 23, 2003. The Race ran from Chicago, Illinois, to Claremont, California along old Route 66. Teams faced varied climates, topography and road conditions. Everything that applies to the Australian challenge applies to the American challenges. The teams have to work just as hard no matter where the competition.
Known as the ‘Brain-Sport’ of our time, World Solar Challenge entrants will traverse more than 3,000km of the Australian or American continents from tropical Darwin to Adelaide, or from Chicago to California in cars powered by nothing more than the sun. World Solar Challenges promotes and celebrates education and technical excellence, drawing attention to the imperatives of sustainable transport.
The ‘Challenges’, are to design and build a car capable of crossing Australia or America on the power of daylight, comprehends the most innovative research and development of alternative transport technologies. The World Solar Challenge attracts teams and individuals from corporations and universities all over the world. Fuelled by the spirit of friendly competition, the World Solar Challenge champions the creative integration of technical and scientific expertise across a wide range of disciplines, providing a focus for bright young minds. These minds are undoubtedly the very people who will deliver these technologies in the future, excelling in the fields of physics, electrochemistry, engineering, mathematics, multi-disciplined learning and personal development.
The interest from the academic world is so great that now almost 100 of the world’s top universities are involved in solar car projects, and creating public awareness of significant environmental issues, this event demonstrates the innovative nature of South Australians as well as promoting the adventure and ecotourism opportunities offered by the State.
One of the unique propositions of the World Solar Challenge is that it is run in one stage. Once competitors have left Darwin at 8am on the first day, they are on their own. Apart from compulsory stops at the seven checkpoints, each team endeavours to travel as far as it can each day, but must make camp by 5pm each evening.
World Solar Challenge is a celebration of achievement, of courage
and the application of scientific knowledge in the field of solar
technology. This is the adventure of young people not only dreaming
of a safer, smarter, greener world, but of skilled young enthusiasts
working to make it a reality.
DARWIN TO ADELAIDE JOURNEY TIME
The 8th World Solar Challenge will depart Darwin on Sunday 25 September 2005. Scrutineering commences on Thursday 22 September, and most teams spend at least a week in Darwin preparing for departure.
Once competitors leave Darwin at 8am on the first day, they are on their own. Apart from compulsory stops at the seven checkpoints, each team endeavours to travel as far as it can each day, but must make camp by 5pm each evening.
Given perfect weather, the world’s best may well achieve their goal of reaching Adelaide in less than four days, but the adventure for most sees them setting up their bush camp, under a billion stars, for a few extra nights.
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