Teams from the Netherlands have won both categories of the World Solar Challenge, a cross-desert solar-powered automobile race.
The team Nuon crossed the line in first place in the Schneider Electric Challenger Class with fellow Dutch team Twente taking second place.
In the Challenger Class section of the World Solar Challenge, teams work to build highly efficient and speedy solar vehicles, which are then raced between Darwin and Adelaide, through the Australian Outback.
Cars in this class are little more than high-tech, streamlined capsules covered in solar panels.
The second place team in this class, ‘Twente’, also managed to take home the CSIRO Innovation Prize for a unique solar panel charging set-up which tracked the sun to ensure maximum exposure.
Dutch teams also won the new Cruiser class of the World Solar Challenge. First run in 2013, this new class encourages teams to make more realistic and commercially viable solar-powered cars.
As well as speed, teams are also judged on their energy efficiency, aesthetics and practicality.
Here, Dutch team Eindhoven took the crown with their four-seater family car ‘Stella Lux’, which received a combined score of 97.77%.
While Japanese competitor Kogakuin’s ‘Owl’ vehicle was faster, the ‘Stella Lux’ was judged more practical due to its larger seating capacity.
“I congratulate Team Eindhoven on their innovation, practical design with the every-day driver in mind and interior style. ‘Stella Lux’ is a wonderful solar car in a field of exceptional cars and teams,” said Event Director Chris Selwood
“I look forward to 2017 and the prospect of more cruisers being road registered, as we work toward the world’s most efficient electric car.”
The hope is that the innovations developed and experimentation carried out by the teams in this Cruiser Class of the race will lead to real-world applications.
While fully solar-powered vehicles are still a far-off prospect, and would require large advances in panel efficiency, solar panels could be used to support plug-in electric vehicles.
Through the use of a solar panel roof, these vehicles could extend the range which they could travel without the need to recharge by a significant amount.