You’ve heard of drag races, Formula One racing and NASCAR racing but have you heard about solar powered car racing, huh?
Oh yeah, solar powered car racing is some next level automobile racing that isn’t new, by the way, and World Solar Challenge held in Australia is a biennial affair. It’s so not new that they are actually celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year, covering a 3000km distance between Darwin and Adelaide in a span of a week.
All performance vehicles in the race come with all-electric powertrains that draw energy from solar panels fitted on to the roofs. This gives the race its essence, that is making racing a sustainable environment friendly sport.
You can take the vroom out of the enthusiasts but can’t take the enthusiasts out of the vroom– automobile racing will go on for centuries to come, and while more and more vehicles are switching to all-electric or hybrid power trains that draw power from non-renewable resources like coal for electricity or petroleum for internal combustion engines, the need for self sustaining power emitors is imperative. The use of solar power here, makes sense now, doesn’t it?
But what is car racing if there isn’t the deafening sounds of roaring engines and the smell of speed-burnt treads on tarmac? How fast can a solar power vehicle really go? Harnessing solar energy takes time, what’s the point of a seven day long race that could’ve been completed in a few hours?
Well yes, this isn’t the kind of race where the super fast vehicle is just a motion blur, safety regulations have ensured that no vehicle crosses the limit of 110kmph. If you look at the vehicles, they look like boxes with sloping silver roofs and a bubble top; at higher speeds than prescribed, they might just topple over. These vehicles have been designed by young students from all participating countries, not by coachbuilders at Ferrari!
The solar panels on the vehicles are immediately converting solar energy to kinetic energy, so it’s a no-brainer that the vehicles aren’t driven at night. That is why the trip could take up to seven days, although it adds an adventure element to the race because the stopover could be in a wild unsafe environment– boo!
At the end of the day, it may not be a Formula One quality race, but the vehicle that wins the challenge, emerges as the most efficient of the competition. The technology or design used to achieve this efficiency could be further developed to be used in high performance race cars– only a matter of time!
That is exactly why World Solar Challenge isn’t the only solar powered car racing programme in the world, there are others like American Solar Challenge, Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge, South African Solar Challenge, Formula G, Suzuka and World Green Challenge, who are also working toward the same cause while making it superfun.
One last thing, you don’t have to be competing to take part in this seven day extravaganza, you can just be out on an adventure in your solar power vehicle as a part of the Adventure Class, or get the best of both worlds as the Cruiser Class, racing like the Challenger class and adventuring on the way.