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The challenge

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

In 1982, solar pioneers Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins embarked on a quest that would see them drive a home-built solar car Quiet Achiever across Australia from west to east. Inspired by this achievement and his own pioneering vision, Hans urged others to explore the boundaries of sun-powered transport.

And so the World Solar Challenge was born.

The first event was held in 1987, and was sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission. In 2017, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will continue to showcase the development of advanced automotive technology and promote alternatives to conventional vehicle engines.

Today, while solar cars test the ultimate boundaries of energy efficiency, they also provide incredible insights into the capabilities of everyday vehicle technology. These innovations are at the heart of all electric cars, whether that power comes from hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid engines or even fully-electric commuter cars that draw power from solar cells on the garage roof – they all use the technology that is continually honed to perfection in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Innovation in six square metres

Utilising no more than six square metres of solar panels, some of the world’s brightest young minds are on track to develop the most efficient electric vehicles possible. And every two years, teams from leading international universities and technical institutes, together with private entrepreneurs, come together Down Under to test and promote the ultimate synergy of nature, motion and innovation.

On the 8th of October 2017, the 30th anniversary of the event, teams will depart Darwin aiming to be the first to arrive in Adelaide, some 3000km to the south.

It’s all about energy management

Based on the original notion that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy, which is 10% of that theoretical figure. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle.

These are arguably the most efficient electric vehicles.

Having made the journey to Darwin by successfully navigating quarantine, customs, scrutineering, safety inspections and undertaken event briefings, participants are ready to start their epic journey.

Once the teams have left Darwin they must travel as far as they can until 5pm in the afternoon where they make camp in the desert wherever they happen to be. All teams must be fully self-sufficient and for all concerned it is a great adventure – many say the adventure of a lifetime.

The event classes

  • The Challenger class is conducted in a single stage from Darwin to Adelaide.
  • The Cruiser Class is conducted as a regularity trial.
  • The Adventure Class is a non-competitve class which provides opprtunity for cars built for previous events.

During the journey there are mandatory check points where observers are changed and team managers may update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their own position in the field. Here teams may perform the most basic of maintenance only – checking and maintenance of tyre pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle.

There are also undisclosed check points which may be imposed by the event officials to ensure regulatory compliance.

For more information, visit the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge site.