Solar-powered car race kicks off 30 years of World Solar Challenge
A solar-powered car race can show you how advanced this type of technology is. Although a fully solar-powered car has not come along yet, the technology has come a long way. Fans started celebrating the beginning of the World Solar Challenge this year on Sunday in Darwin, Australia. The teams travel almost 1900 miles to Adelaide using only the sun as their propulsion.
Over 40 solar-powered cars take part this year representing the biggest field of competitors in the 30-year history of the event. These competitors are broken down into the challenger, cruiser, and adventure classes. The challenger-class cars are focused on speed and the cruiser-class on efficiency, while the adventure-class cars are not competing. This class lets cars that were previously built to try the challenge again. Oftentimes a new team will be piloting them.
In the challenger-class, the teams need to make the whole trip in under 30 hours. This is the world record that was set during the 2009 event. Implemented solar technology shows how fast that solar-powered cars are evolving. The most square feet of solar panels used this year is 43. Previous years used almost 65 square feet of solar panels.
The technological improvements allow the vehicles to go further with less solar cells. Solar power is even becoming a viable solution in production cars to power different parts of the car.
Alta and Audi devices debuted recently that are translucent solar cells. They capture and store the energy using a glass roof. These cells would not get in the driver’s way. The energy that is captured would not power the wheels but would be able to help with accessories including heated seats and air conditioning.
Solar cells aren’t ready for production vehicles yet but in the future, they might be used to charge the battery in electric cars. They could extend electric vehicles range on sunny days.