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World Solar Challenge

You’ll see fleeting glimpses of them along the Stuart Highway: flat, shiny, futuristic cars silently racing the sun.

2017 marks the 30th year of the World Solar Challenge, where dozens of teams from around the world come to Darwin to test their 100 per cent solar-powered cars in a 3000 kilometre race down the guts of Australia.

“It’s about who’s first over the line, but it’s also about finishing,” says the event director Chris Selwood.

“Is it possible to drive 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide in a homemade car running on sunshine?”

In 2005 a team averaged 100 kilometres an hour over the entire trip, proving that yes, it is possible – and at a high speed, too. Yet some years up to half of the competitors don’t make it to the finish line.

“It’s not an easy task at all. Usually because of their energy management,” says Selwood.

With university and commercially-sponsored teams coming from across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the US to race, the push to finish the long, hot journey is extremely high.

The cars will depart from Parliament House and travel down the Stuart Highway as far as they can each day until 5pm, with a proviso that they must reach Katherine by the first day.

Three classes are represented in this year’s challenge: the challenger, adventure and cruiser class. 

“The challenger class seeks to have the most efficient electric car, they’re probably not very comfortable because they are keen on reducing weight and keen on reducing energy consumption,” explains Selwood.

In other words, it’s not a breezy cruise down the highway.

The cruiser class however, is “actually quite comfortable.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing the German team’s car, which is trying to reduce its carbon footprint to the point that the seats are even upholstered with pineapple leather,” he says.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the world-famous race, a family festival at the Waterfront will be held one week prior, with science activities, live music and a free screening of the solar car classic Race The Sun. 

Family Festival | Sun 1 Oct | 10am-4pm | Film 7pm

Start Line | Sun 8 Oct | 6-8.30am | Cars depart 8am | Parliament House | Free | worldsolarchallenge.org

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