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Advanced solar-powered cars gear up for grueling World Solar Challenge

Advanced solar-powered cars ge...
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
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The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
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The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
Hungary's Megalux solar car during a test run ahead of the World Solar Challenge
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Hungary's Megalux solar car during a test run ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
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The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
Hungary's Megalux solar car during a test run ahead of the World Solar Challenge
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Hungary's Megalux solar car during a test run ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
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The College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation (GAMF) at Hungary's Kecskemét College is entering the event for the first time with its Megalux solar car
South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 –the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
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South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 –the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 –the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
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South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 –the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 – the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
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South Africa's UKZN Solar Car Project has been designing solar cars since 2012 – the Hulamin is its first entry into the World Solar Challenge
The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car features an asymmetrical design said to reduce aerodynamic drag
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The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car features an asymmetrical design said to reduce aerodynamic drag
The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car features an asymmetrical design said to reduce aerodynamic drag
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The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car features an asymmetrical design said to reduce aerodynamic drag
The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
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The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car prepares for a test run
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The University of KwaZulu–Natal's Hulamin solar car prepares for a test run
The University of KwaZulu–Natal is entering the event for the first time with its Hulamin solar car
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The University of KwaZulu–Natal is entering the event for the first time with its Hulamin solar car
Thailand's STC-1 solar car in preparation for the World Solar Challenge
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Thailand's STC-1 solar car in preparation for the World Solar Challenge
Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car
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Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car
Thailand's STC-1 solar car in preparation for the World Solar Challenge
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Thailand's STC-1 solar car in preparation for the World Solar Challenge
Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car
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Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car
Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
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Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
The Tokai University team says its solar car for the 2015 World Solar Challenge features more efficient power generation than its previous models
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The Tokai University team says its solar car for the 2015 World Solar Challenge features more efficient power generation than its previous models
Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
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Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
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Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
The Tokai University team says its solar car for the 2015 World Solar Challenge features an improved mechanical design over its previous models
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The Tokai University team says its solar car for the 2015 World Solar Challenge features an improved mechanical design over its previous models
Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
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Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
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Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
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Tokai University 2015 vehicle for the World Solar Challenge is claimed to be more aerodynamic than its previous entries
The University of Michigan team says its focus in building Aurum was speed, reliability, and safety
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The University of Michigan team says its focus in building Aurum was speed, reliability, and safety
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
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The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
The University of Michigan team says its focus in building Aurum was speed, reliability, and safety
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The University of Michigan team says its focus in building Aurum was speed, reliability, and safety
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
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The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
The University of Michigan team charging its Aurum solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge, using an IR camera to see which parts of the solar panel array are hottest
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The University of Michigan team charging its Aurum solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge, using an IR camera to see which parts of the solar panel array are hottest
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
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The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
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Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
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Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
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The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
The Nuon Solar Team says it has learnt from the advantages and disadvantages of the design used in the 2013 World Solar Challenge
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The Nuon Solar Team says it has learnt from the advantages and disadvantages of the design used in the 2013 World Solar Challenge
Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
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Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
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The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
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The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
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The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
The Nuon Solar Team says it has learnt from the advantages and disadvantages of the design used in the 2013 World Solar Challenge
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The Nuon Solar Team says it has learnt from the advantages and disadvantages of the design used in the 2013 World Solar Challenge
The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
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The Nuon Solar Team has focused on efficiency, safety and reliability in building its Nuna8 solar car
Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
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Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
The Stella Lux has a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph)
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The Stella Lux has a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph)
Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
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Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
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Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
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Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
The Stella Lux has been designed to be both lightweight and aerodynamic
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The Stella Lux has been designed to be both lightweight and aerodynamic
The Stella Lux built by Holland's Solar Team Eindhoven seats up to four people
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The Stella Lux built by Holland's Solar Team Eindhoven seats up to four people
Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
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Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 sq m (62.4 sq ft) of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15 kWh
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Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 sq m (62.4 sq ft) of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15 kWh
The Stella Lux has been designed to be both lightweight and aerodynamic
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The Stella Lux has been designed to be both lightweight and aerodynamic
Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
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Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
The Stella Lux built by Holland's Solar Team Eindhoven seats up to four people
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The Stella Lux built by Holland's Solar Team Eindhoven seats up to four people
Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 sq m (62.4 sq ft) of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15 kWh
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Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 sq m (62.4 sq ft) of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15 kWh
Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
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Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Stanford University's entry to the 2015 World Solar Challenge is named Arctan
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Stanford University's entry to the 2015 World Solar Challenge is named Arctan
A Stanford University team member with the Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
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A Stanford University team member with the Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
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The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
Stanford University's Arctan solar car during a test run
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Stanford University's Arctan solar car during a test run
Stanford University's entry to the 2015 World Solar Challenge is named Arctan
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Stanford University's entry to the 2015 World Solar Challenge is named Arctan
The Stanford University team with its Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
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The Stanford University team with its Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
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The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
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The Stanford University team says it Arctan solar car features some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies
Stanford University's Arctan solar car during a test run
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Stanford University's Arctan solar car during a test run
View gallery - 64 images

If you're looking to bring together the world's brightest budding engineers to push solar technology to its very limits, then there may be no better backdrop than the dusty, sun-drenched expanses of central Australia. The biennial World Solar Challenge will kick off this Sunday, with competitors set to cover a monster 3,000 km (1,864 mi) journey from Darwin, Northern Territory to Adelaide, South Australia in cars powered purely by the sun. As hopefuls from all over the globe ready their rides for the ultimate in solar-powered endurance racing, here's a quick look at some of the interesting vehicle designs, who's new to the party and a few that have been around the block before.

This year's event marks the 13th World Solar Challenge and features 47 teams from 25 different countries, which is more than ever before. The vehicles taking part have traditionally resembled spaceships more than cars you might see on the street, but at the last World Solar Challenge in 2013 organizers introduced the Cruiser Challenge, a second class catering to solar cars that can carry passengers and are designed more with practicality in mind.

The Challenger Class is the mainstay of the competition and sees a fleet of sleek, aerodynamic cars covered in solar panels battle it out to be the first across the finish line. This year's event features 29 teams who have had to tailor their designs to result in vehicles no longer than 4.5 m (14.7 ft) and no wider than 1.8 m (5.9 ft), which is a downsizing from the previous event. The field includes a number of teams who have been regular place-getters, if not winners, of the World Solar Challenge, along with a few making their debut appearances.

Nuon Solar Team: Nuna

Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge
Holland's Nuon Solar Team is looking to defend its title at the 2015 World Solar Challenge

The Nuon Solar Team is the reigning champ and has been one of the first three across the finish line in every World Solar Challenge since 2001, claiming the first prize a total of five times. Hailing from Holland, this year the team rides in the Nuna8, the eighth rendition of its Nuna solar car and, perhaps in a warning to its competitors, claims to have learnt some design lessons from its successful run in 2013.

Tokai University: Tokai Challenger

Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car
Tokai University is back and looking for another title at the World Solar Challenge with its Tokai Challenger solar car

Japan's Tokai University has taken the fight right up to the Nuon Solar Team in recent years, winning both the 2009 and 2011 events, then coming in second place in 2013. It says the new and improved Tokai Challenger is lighter, features improved power generation and also better aerodynamics.

University of Michigan: Aurum

The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body
The University of Michigan's Aurum solar car features an asymmetrical catamaran body

The University of Michigan has been in the game since 1990, when it placed third in the second ever World Solar Challenge, and it takes solar car design seriously. Consecutive third place finishes in 2009 and 2011 were followed by a crash in 2013, which crippled the team's chances of success despite the team's best efforts to repair the vehicle. Aurum is its 2015 ride, featuring an asymmetrical catamaran body that is said to be more aerodynamic that any vehicle the team has ever produced.

Stanford University: Arctan

The Stanford University team with its Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge
The Stanford University team with its Arctan solar car ahead of the World Solar Challenge

A product of Stanford University's Solar Car Project program, Arctan is claimed to feature some of the most advanced photovoltaic and encapsulation technologies. Will it be enough to yield Stanford's first ever triumph at the World Solar Challenge?

Eindhoven University of Technology: Stella Lux

Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the Stella Lux's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb)

The (comparatively) spacious Stella Lux is a second take on solar car design from the team at Eindhoven University of Technology. Running in the Cruiser Challenge, the vehicle seats up to four people, features a range of more than 1,100 km (684 mi) and has a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph). It has a tunnel running through its center to maximize aerodynamics.

New entries

Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car
Thailand's Siam Technology College is entering the World Solar Challenge for the first time with its STC-1 solar car

Three new teams are looking to make their mark on the World Solar Challenge this year. Thailand's Siam Technology College claims it has designed its STC-1 solar vehicle to the same standards as a typical racing car, while the GAMF Hungary team says its goal with its Megalux car was to build a vehicle where all the components are in harmony with one another. Meanwhile, South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal will debut a solar car called Hulamin, which features an asymmetrical design with a small frontal area to reduce drag

While these vehicles are the result of years of research, refinement and careful consideration, there's no way to completely prepare for the harsh Australian outback where daytime temperatures are expected to reach 100° F (37.8° Celsius) in the coming days. There's certain to be a few twists and turns down the road, so stay tuned to Gizmag to see which team comes out on top. The awards ceremony is due to start in Adelaide on Wednesday as the teams start rolling in, but in the meantime you can click through to our gallery to see these vehicles from all angles.

Source: World Solar Challenge

View gallery - 64 images
7 comments
Don Duncan
Claims of lower drag should include specifics, e.g., the drag coefficient. They must know it. How else could they claim improved aerodynamics? I wonder how they compare to the Aptera's .15 drag?
How does a solar powered car have a range limit (648 mi.)? Wouldn't the range be limited only by hours of sunlight? And couldn't this mean they are best suited where daylight is 24 hours?
XXPepper
Do these cars have some kind of cabin cooling or coolsuit in them?
Martin Hone
Whatever happened to Monash Uni's/Ford Australia solar challenger ?
byrneheart
Obviously the range is from a full battery to empty. The solar panels top up the battery as it goes so the range is further than the batteries actual capacity but the cars can keep running in diminished sunlight with a reduced range because of the battery.
Grainpaw
The article does say, "cars powered purely by the sun." This leaves open the possibility that they have no batteries as a weight saving measure. One would have to look more closely at the rules and design specs for each class. I hope this will be addressed in a subsequent update. And how is the race scored? Just the time over a given course, or what?
YuraG
This is a very good summary. The rest can be found on the WSC site, but it's isn't informative enough. One still needs to dig the web to find specs/pis of the cars.
BasVossen
what's the use of building vehicles nobody will use? Why don't we let these brilliant minds design something that can be put into production and sold cheap so that taxpayers finally will benefit? Or is the oil industry stopping this? They've been stopping electric cars since Henry Ford. Electric came first!