A Dutch solar car designed by a team from Netherlands’ Delft University won the Australia World Solar Challenge — a race to see whose solar-powered car could travel 1,900 miles across Australia’s outback the fastest.
The challenge started on Sunday and drew in 46 teams from 25 countries. The race began in Darwin, which is in North Australia, to Adelaide, in the southern part of the continent. To make the trek, teams had to design their vehicles to use advanced technologies like solar power conversion and energy storage devices.
There were three classes of vehicles in the race: the Challenger Class, the Cruiser Class, and the Adventure Class (most teams participated in the first two classes). The car designed by Delft University was part of the Challenger Class.
The other two classes have yet to finish their races.
The Challenger Class consists of smaller vehicles that carry only the driver and are timed in a single stage between the two destinations. They must travel the full length of the race with just one charge of their battery. Solar power provides the rest of the energy needed to power the vehicle’s trip.
The car designed by a Delft University team, who dubbed themselves the Nuon Solar Team, won the competition last year with their car the Nuna 7.
The Nuon Solar Team used 3D printing to create their car this year, the Nuna 8. The 3D printing helped improve the Nuna 8’s speed by creating a a completely transparent, hollow spoiler that weighs only 250 grams.
The Nuna 8 narrowly beat the Solar Team Twente by three minutes, the Nuon Solar Team wrote on their website. The last day of the race proved difficult because it was cloudy and the Nuna 8 had such little energy in their battery they weren’t sure they could complete it.
Solar Team Twente actually created a system in their car the Red One to capture energy even when it’s in shadows.
The system is called SABINE, which stands for Solar Array balancing Interface Not Expected, and helps balance the energy in the solar cells. This helps give the team 10% to 20% more solar power when the vehicle is in shadows.
The Nuna 8 weighed 331 pounds and drove an average speed of 59 to 62 miles per hour, according to Mashable. The car has a very small cockpit that gets extremely hot in the 111 degree Fahrenheit conditions, requiring the team’s three drivers to get in good shape ahead of time and drink plenty of water.