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Australia tests solar cars in global challenge

5th Oct 2011

Veolia Environmental Services have been announced as the major sponsor of the biennial World Solar Challenge.

The solar transport competition sees 39 teams from 20 countries compete in a race from Darwin to Adelaide on vehicles developed to be powered by the sun.

Mark Warren, chief executive officer of the South Australian Motor Sports Board hopes that the event will raise awareness about the potential for solar cars as a viable means of transport in the near future.

"With the backing of one of the world's leaders in environmental services, we have a much greater chance of taking solar cars technology out of the future fantasy realm and into the garages of everyday Australians," Warren says.

The event will be held from October 16 to 23 and challenges contestants to develop a solar car that will make the difficult journey across some of Australia's harshest regions.

Teams will build on the innovative approaches to solar power systems from past years in order to make vehicles capable of travelling the 3000km distance.

According to the competition's official website: "One of the most exciting outcomes of the Solar Challenge is to know that the technologies being used are most likely to find their way into the production cars of tomorrow."

Organisers believe that a 1000 watt car will be able to complete the journey in roughly 50 hours - with competitors being allowed an extra 10 per cent back up.

The rest of the required energy will need to be sourced via solar panels installed on the vehicle, or via integrated kinetic systems.

Teams will need to be be self-sufficient as they pass through check points on a journey that takes them through some of the hottest and most sun-exposed areas in the entire country.

Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy are all destinations that competitors must travel through in a race to be the first to arrive in Adelaide.

The event highlights the potential for solar power technology to be applied to a vast number of areas.

Australians may very well see solar power transport become the norm in the near future, just as they are seeing it becoming commonplace for home energy generation.

Tens of thousands of households have installed rooftop solar panel systems in the past few years, fuelled by the government's solar credits scheme and the desire to save money on energy bills.

Renewable energy technology has also continued to increase in efficiency to the point where it is expected to provide the potential for large, utilities-scale plants that will replace traditional coal-fired power in some regions.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent 

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