An epic solar car race begin across Australian desert

An epic 3,000km solar car race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide is expected to showcase new technology that could help develop future commercial vehicles got underway Sunday.

The World Solar Challenge began across the desert heart of Australia with 42 solar cars with speeds of 90-100kmh powered by the sun.

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The World Solar Challenge, first run in 1987 and last held in 2015, began in a high-tech, futuristic flurry from Darwin’s State Square.

The fastest time was achieved by Japan’s Tokai University in 2009, completing the transcontinental race in only 29 hours and 49 minutes.

Dutch team Nuon is aiming to defend its title but Belgium’s Punch Powertrain led the 41 cars – powered by the sun and mostly developed by universities or corporations – off on the punishing journey south to Adelaide after a surprise win in Saturday’s time trial.

But reigning 2015 champions Nuon from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands believes it has a good chance of retaining the prize

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Teams from the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia are taking part.

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The government’s A$250,000 (US$194,150) sponsorship of the race showed it was committed to achieving 50 percent renewable energy for the territory by 2030, said Lauren Moss, the Northern Territory Minister for Tourism and Culture.

Lauren Moss said innovation is at the heart of the event and the technology showcased this year will influence continuing solar innovation for vehicles and householders in the future.

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“This event is a great promotion for the NT – it shows our ability to innovate to the world”, she said.

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The event director Chris Selwood said, “of course, the point of this challenge is not just to go fast, or to develop technology that will never reach the mainstream”.

Teams are allowed to store a small amount of energy but the majority of their power has to come from the sun and their vehicle’s kinetic forces.

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