Team Tokai has just reached the finish line in Adelaide, Australia, to become the winner of the 2011 World Solar Challenge. The victory makes it back-to-back wins for the Japanese team which took out the previous event in 2009.
All of the top three places are set to match the 2009 results when Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands finished in second place, followed by the University of Michigan in third.
The Nuon Solar Car Team was hot on the heels of the Tokai vehicle throughout the final day this year, with Nuna6 running just 30 minutes behind - a very tight margin after four days on the road. Nuon is now expected to arrive at the finish line at around 10am tomorrow after running out of energy at Angle Vale, just north of Adelaide.
After starting in fifth position in Darwin, the Tokai team took the lead on the first day of the race and was never headed throughout the grueling 1800-odd mile journey, which this year posed extra challenges in the form of bushfires and road closures.
The Tokai Challenger 2 is a three-wheeler featuring carbon monocoque construction that harnesses solar energy using a six meter square array of silicon solar cells with a conversion efficiency of 22 percent. The vehicle has a claimed top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph). Energy capacity of the 21 kg (46.2 lb) lithium-ion battery is 5 kWh - which by way of comparison, is roughly the same amount of energy it takes to run an electric clothes dryer for one hour.
In 2009, Team Tokai completed the race in 29 hours and forty-nine minutes, averaging 100.54 km/h (62.47 mph). The average time set this year is expected to be very similar - we'll confirm the exact figure when official results are in. Either way, it's a remarkable achievement in a vehicle powered only by the Sun's rays.
The Tokai University vehicle reached the ceremonial finish line at approximately 2pm local time. The victory was a particularly emotional one for the Japanese team who were seeking to highlight the potential for solar power and the world-leading status of Japan's technologies in the aftermath of the Fukishima nuclear disaster.
We'll keep you posted on the official results as the remaining teams complete the Solar Challenge in coming days. In the meantime, Tokai University is set to celebrate its well earned win - check out the gallery for more photos.
Ed's note: this article was updated at 11:45 pm on 19 October as further information became available.
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