Dutch Solar Car Beats U.S. and Australian Entries

A team from The Netherlands beat top Australian and U.S. challengers in the World Solar Challenge for solar cars that raced 3,000 km across Australia.

ADELAIDE, Australia, AU, 2001-12-07 [SolarAccess.com] The team of mainly university students from Amsterdam, set a new speed record in the race from Darwin to Adelaide. The three wheeled car traversed the country in 32 hours, 39 minutes at an average speed of 57 mph. Called Nuna, the Dutch car beat the previous speed record set in 1996 by a Japanese entrant. On the last day, the Dutch car set new records for distance traveled in a day and an average on-the-road speed of more than 100 km/h. The solar power came from dual and triple junction gallium-arsenide solar cells that were developed for satellite applications. The European Space agency will test the cells in space in 2003, when the SMART-1 mission is launched to the moon. Nuna’s aerodynamic outer shell was built from plastics, while the main body was made from carbon fibre, reinforced with Kevlar. The car used Maximum Power Point Trackers to guarantee an optimal balance between power from the battery and the solar cells, in situations with shade and cloud. Also of help were two small strips of solar cells on the sides of the car. These originally belonged to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and were part of a large solar array retrieved by ESA and brought back to earth in 1993 by the space shuttle. They were donated to the Alpha Centauri Team as a special mascot and served to power the car’s communication equipment. The Aurora 101 entry from Australia crossed the finish line second, in 33:14 and an average speed of 90.2 km/h, also beating the previous race record. The University of Michigan’s M-Pulse car, which set the fastest time in practice of 112 km/h was third. Two more U.S. cars, Solar Motions and SolarMiner III, were fourth and fifth, while a Canadian car, Mirage from Queen’s University, was sixth.

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