World Solar Challenge
This year the competition is divided into three categories: Challenger, Michelin Cruiser and GoPro Adventure.
The Challenger category, which is ours, is the most futuristic of the three: all vehicles are superb examples of aerodynamic vehicles and they must comply with the following guidelines: 4 wheels, 1 driver, max. length 4.5 metres, max. width 1.8 metres and max 6 m2 solar panels. One long non-stop journey from Darwin to Adelaide, to be covered using exclusively solar power demonstrating maximum efficiency.
The Michelin Cruiser category is for those vehicles which are less “extreme” and more “roadworthy”: 4 wheels plus space for the driver and one passenger, both facing in the direction of travel. The challenge schedules several stopovers along the route so that batteries can be recharged overnight. This class concentrates on practicality, the main aim being to register the vehicle on the road in one’s country of origin.
Last but not least, the GoPro Adventure is for those vehicles which have taken part in previous editions of the race: 3 wheels, a driver, max. size 5m x 1.8m and 6m2 of solar panels. This category concentrates on experience: it enables all those who have already taken part to come back and have another go – even though they do not have the possibility to build a vehicle which complies with the new regulations.
This year’s World Solar Challenge will see a total of 47 teams competing from 26 different countries. The previous edition in 2011 saw 40 teams taking part from 22 countries. In 2013, 28 teams will take part in the Challenger category, 10 teams in the Michelin Cruiser category and 8 in the GoPro Adventure category. Onda Solare will compete in the Challenger category and it is the only Italian team taking part in the whole event.
It is a friendly competition in which all the teams set off from Darwin with the aim of being the first team to arrive in Adelaide, around 3,000 km south.
The challenge is all about managing energy supplies.
On the theory that a 1000W vehicle could complete the course in 50 hours, solar powered cars are only allowed 5 Kw/h of their stored energy, which in theory is only 10% of that figure.
The remaining energy must come from the sun or kinetic energy from the vehicle. After a long sea voyage to Darwin, various Customs checks, technical checks, safety inspections plus a pre-race briefing, competitors are then ready to start their epic journey.
The Challenger category, which is the most extreme, involves just one long journey from Darwin to Adelaide. Once the teams have left Darwin they have until 5pm that day to cover as many kilometers as possible. At 5pm then they must stop for the day and camp out in the desert.
The other categories have different requirements but all teams must be self-sufficient. Everyone agrees that it will be a fantastic adventure, some say the adventure of a lifetime.
Along the route there are seven compulsory checkpoints where than can be a changeover in the observers and team managers can be updated on the weather conditions and their position on the leaderboard.
At the checkpoints only the most basic maintenance is allowed such as checking tyre pressure and cleaning the vehicle.