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Solar car achieves world first

17 Jun 2002

Dutch car Nuna has won the World Solar Challenge in a record-breaking time.

Solar-powered car Nuna has won the 3010 km World Solar Challenge across Australia breaking three world records in the process.

The Nuna team completed the race in just less than four days rather than the usual five. The car also covered the most ever kilometers in one day, 830 km, and is the first newcomer to win the race.

The main components of the car are plastic and kevlar giving it an overall weight of just 220 kg. This helped the team power to victory in only four days with an overall time of 32 h 39 m, breaking the previous record by a massive 53 minutes.

Pre-race tests had shown that the car was capable of travelling at 160 km/h but to keep within the Australian speed limits, Nuna maintained an average speed of 91.81 km/h throughout the race.

Nuna was built by the Alpha Centauri team of researchers from the Netherlands-based Technical University of Delft using highly efficient solar cells (see related story) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Michael van Baal, a spokesperson from the ESA said: "These are incredible speeds for a solar car. This is a fantastic achievement and demonstration of what the ESA can do."

Nuna's closest rival was the Australian entry called Aurora that won last year's challenge. Third place was taken by US-based entrants M-Pulse from the University of Michigan who won this year's American Solar Challenge.

A total of 38 solar-powered cars from 11 countries, each built entirely by the contestants, competed in this year's race, following the route from Darwin on the north coast to Adelaide on the south coast.

The world solar challenge dates back to 1987, when 23 solar-powered cars from 7 countries competed. Since then, the race has grown into a major event attracting universities and research laboratories from around the globe. Several teams have multi-million-dollar backing from motor manufacturers.

The race was initially established to motivate research and development into harnessing solar energy for future transport needs.

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