In case racing thousands of kilometers across the Outback in a solar-powered vehicle wasn't challenging enough, Mother Nature has thrown an extra spanner in the works by way of clouds and rain. But the Nuon Solar Team has weathered the storm on day three of the World Solar Challenge, stretching its lead as the field went through something of a reshuffle behind it.
The World Solar Challenge is an arduous 3,000-km (1,864-mi) schlep from Australia's north to south, where competitors in the Challenger Class draw on the power of the sun to beat their rivals across the finish line in their solar-powered vehicles. Naturally, the amount of sunlight the cars' solar panels are exposed to will impact on their momentum across the Outback, and to that end we have seen some innovative solar forecasting technologies play a role in the past.
The rain and clouds to befall the field on day three of 2017's event certainly did the Netherland's Nuon Solar Team no harm. They now hold a commanding 56-minute lead over the second-placed University of Michigan Solar Team – for the sake of context, Nuon won the previous World Solar Challenge by just 10 minutes.
Team Twente sits in third place, but awaits what could be a defining outcome regarding a 30-minute time penalty, which it has appealed. The big movers of the day were Team Tokai, and not in a good way. After rolling into camp just eight minutes behind Nuon on day two, the Japanese team now sits more than an hour and 20 minutes behind the leaders in fourth.
In the points-based Cruiser Class, meanwhile, where competitors are judged on their energy management and payloads, Holland's Team Eindhoven with five people onboard has also maintained its lead, carrying five people across a distance of 7,465 km (4,640 mi) with the second lowest external energy source usage (non-solar) of any team. It currently has an efficiency score of 80, with Germany's Bochum SolarCar Team in second with 19.2.
The Challenger Class leaders are expected to roll across the finish line in Adelaide on Thursday, while the Cruiser Class competitors are expected in town on Friday. Stay tuned to New Atlas for a full-wrap up of the event.
Source: World Solar Challenge