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Solar cars power across the outback

16 Oct 2003

Twenty three solar-powered cars will begin the World Solar Challenge across Australia on Sunday.

The seventh biennial World Solar Challenge gets underway this weekend. On Sunday, twenty-three solar-powered cars will line up in Darwin on Australia’s north coast. All the entries are aiming to cover the 3010 km to Adelaide in the fastest time possible using only the power of the Sun.

Hot favorite to cross the finishing line first is the Nuna II car, a superior version of Nuna I that won the 2001 event in a record time of 32 hours and 39 minutes. Having made several improvements to the car, the Dutch Nuon Solar Team is hoping that Nuna II will win in an even faster time this year.

“We have drastically changed the shape of the new vehicle to make it more aerodynamic, it’s lighter and the wheels have been placed further back to reduce the frontal surface,” said team manager Diederik Kinds.

Kinds says the team is aiming to maintain an average speed of 100 km/h, in contrast to its 2001 winning figure of 91.81 km/h. “In the Northern Territory we plan to cruise at about 130 to 135 km/h, but of course everything depends on the weather,” he said.

Boasting a top speed of 170 km/h, Nuna II is powered by 3000 gallium-arsenide triple-junction solar cells. The cells are said to have an efficiency of 24.5% and cover the entire top surface of the car, an area of some 9 m2.

On Sunday, Nuna II will line up against 22 other cars built by teams from 10 countries including Japan, Taiwan, France and Germany. The organizers predict that the leading cars will reach Adelaide in 4 days and cross the finishing line on October 22. Optics.org will be posting the results as soon as they become available.

Author
Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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