October 20, 2011
Winning Teams Of Solar Car Race Announced
A Japanese team from Tokai University won the World Solar Challenge today, after racing more than 1,800 miles on remote highways through the Australian Outback, dodging wildlife, wildfires and an explosion.
Team Tokai crossed the finish line in Adelaide Thursday afternoon (local time) to claim back-to-back victories in the event, narrowly beating the Nuon Solar team from the Netherlands. The event was last held in 2009.
Organizers of the event said it was one of the closest finishes in the event´s 11-race history, which was first run in 1987. Less than 18 miles separated first and second place. The American team from University of Michigan came in third, followed by the Dutch Solar Team Twente and Japan´s Ashiya University team.
The Japanese team dedicated their race to the reconstruction of their tsunami and earthquake-devastated home country and its energy future.
Thirty-seven cars from 21 countries participated in this year´s event. Teams began in Darwin and headed south using only the power from the Sun. At night, racers camped out on the sides of highways since there was no energy to power their cars.
The teams are allowed to store a small amount of energy in their cars, but the majority of energy must come from the Sun and the vehicle´s kinetic forces.
Racers usually have to dodge other traffic along the way, including wildlife, such as kangaroos and camels. But this year´s race was made more dangerous by wildfires that broke out in the Northern Territory, which forced some cars to stop racing on Tuesday and camp out at a police roadblock as the fires crossed the highway.
One of the teams, from the Philippines, was sidelined with a battery explosion causing its car to ignite. Nobody was injured in the incident and the team was able to extinguish the fire and replace the battery pack to continue on.
Team Nuon´s driver, Javier Sint Jago, said he has to avoid cattle, wallabies, sheep and lizards throughout his drive, although the biggest challenge was to fight the strong winds which battered his 300 pound vehicle.
“It was pretty rough. The side winds were 50 to 60 kph [30-40 mph], and can easily push you off the side,” he told Reuters. “It was just so much concentration.”
Universities and researchers from around the world find interest in the race, as they look for new sources of energy to fuel cars.
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