The Dutch Nuon Solar Team has won the World Solar Challenge for the fifth consecutive time, covering the 3,000km distance between Australian cities Darwin and Adelaide in 33 hours.
Designed and built by students at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the victorious Nuna 7 car has crossed the finish line two hours ahead of the runner-up – a team from Tokai University in Japan – with an average speed during the three-day race of 90.7km/h.
Nuna 7, the first four-wheel solar race car designed by the team, relied on a secret weapon during the race – specially designed concentrators optimising the efficiency of solar power. Thanks to this technology, the car was fuelled with additional energy for those moments when the sun wasn’t providing enough power.
This feature proved to be crucial for Nuna 7’s victory. Only 50km before the finish line, the vehicle was only a couple of minutes ahead of its best competitor at the last checkpoint at Port Augusta.
However, cloudy weather (and not having the concentrators) brought bad luck to the Tokai University team as their vehicle ran out of power and forced the team to stop to recharge batteries.
“We started with a great advance this morning and the other teams did not seem to have enough energy. Since the sun did not shine today, they did not have any reserve,” said Leslie Nooteboom on behalf of the winning team.
The Dutch vehicle maintained the lead for most of the duration of the race, entailing 33 hours of driving. Coming third was Team Twente, also from the Netherlands
The only British team expected to compete in the Challenge, from the University of Cambridge, pulled out of the race before the start as their vehicle Resolution was damaged in a crash.
Nine other vehicles left the race before the start with only ten cars setting off from Darwin on Sunday to drive across Australia from north to south.
According to the competition’s rules, the vehicles are allowed to store a maximum of 5kW hours of energy, relying on direct solar power for the most of the time. The cars are therefore only allowed to be in motion from 8am to 5pm with the teams camping in wilderness during the journey.