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Ecorally: 3000 km ~ Challengers’ hopes rest on full tank of sun

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PETROL may be cheaper now but the hunt for alternative fuels and more economical vehicles goes on unabated. More than 50 teams from 15 countries are expected to compete in the Global Green Challenge from today, fighting it out in various classes for 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. This year’s event is split into two categories – the World Solar Car Challenge and the Eco Challenge. here will be 38 solar-powered cars in the World Solar Challenge from 17 countries including Australia, the US, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Iran, Taiwan and Singapore. All eyes will be on the Netherlands’ nuon solar team with its new car, the Nuna5. The Dutch team has won the biennial challenge the past four times. There are eight entrants from Australia.The World Solar Challenge is a single-stage event with competitors camping by the roadside at the end of each day. The car that reaches Adelaide in the fastest time wins. The Eco Challenge is open to cars that are, or soon will be, in Australian showrooms. It showcases the latest environmentally friendly technology from car makers that include Ford, Kia, Suzuki, Hyundai, Holden, Skoda, and Holden Special Vehicles..One of the highlights will be the world’s fastest electric sports car, the Tesla roadster. It can reach 100km/h in 3.9 seconds yet the maker says it is twice as efficient as the environmental pin-up car, the Toyota Prius. It is powered by an electric motor. The winner of the Eco Challenge will be the team that gets the best percentage improvement during the event compared with the consumption and emissions figures from the Australian Design Regulations. The Eco Challenge starts from Parliament House in Darwin at noon today and the solar cars start from Darwin tomorrow morning. news from smh.com.au –

The World Solar Challenge is a solar-powered car race which covers 3021 km (1,877 miles) through the Australian Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The race has a 20-year history spanning nine races, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987. The objective of this competition is to promote research on solar-powered cars. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 2005, 22 teams from 11 countries entered the primary race category. Efficient balancing of power resources and power consumption is the key to success during the race. At any moment in time the optimal driving speed depends on the weather (forecast) and the remaining capacity of the batteries. The team members in the (normal) escort cars will continuously remotely retrieve data from the solar car about its condition and use these data as input for prior developed computer programs to work out the best driving strategy. It is equally important to charge the batteries as much as possible in periods of daylight when the car is not racing. To capture as much solar-energy as possible, the solar panels are generally directed such that these are perpendicular to the incident sun rays. Often the whole car is tilted for this purpose. Important rules.     * As the race is over public roads, the cars have to adhere to the normal traffic regulations; however, there is a special note in the official regulations remarking on the tendency of drivers to take advantage of a favourable road camber in order to capture the maximum amount of solar energy. After midday when the sun is in the west, it would be advantageous to drive on the right side of the highway, provided, of course, there is no traffic in opposite direction.

* A minimum of 2 and maximum 4 drivers have to be registered. If the weight of a driver (including clothes) is less than 80 kg (180 lb), ballast will be added to make up the difference. * Driving time is between 0800 and 1700 hours. In order to select a suitable place for the overnight stop (alongside the highway) it is possible to extend the driving period for a maximum of 10 minutes, which extra driving time will be compensated by a starting time delay the next day. * At various points along the route there are checkpoints where every car has to pause for 30 minutes. Only limited maintenance tasks (no repairs) are allowed during these compulsory stops. * The capacity of the batteries is limited to a mass for each chemistry (such as Lithium Ion) equivalent to approximately 5 kWh maximum. At the start of the race, the batteries may be fully charged. Batteries may not be replaced during the competition, except in the situation of a breakdown. However, in that case a penalty time will apply. * Except for the maximum outer dimensions, there are no further restrictions on the design and construction of the car. * The deceleration of the dual braking system must be at least 3.8 m/s² (149.6 in/s²). By 2005, several teams were handicapped by the South Australian speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph), as well as the difficulties of support crews keeping up with 130 km/h (81 mph) race vehicles. It was generally agreed that the challenge of building a solar vehicle capable of crossing Australia at vehicular speeds had been met and exceeded. A new challenge was set: to build a new generation of solar car, which, with little modification, could be the basis for a practical proposition for sustainable transport.

Entrants to the 2007 race chose between racing in the Adventure and Challenge classes. Challenge class cars were restricted to 6 square meters of solar collectors (a 25% reduction), driver access and egress were required to be unaided, seating position upright, steering controlled with a steering wheel, and many new safety requirements were added. Competitors also had to adhere to the new 130 km/h (81 mph) speed limit across the Northern Territory portion of the Stuart Highway. The 2007 event again featured a range of supplementary classes, including the Greenfleet class, which features a range of non-solar energy-efficient vehicles exhibiting their fuel efficiency. Panasonic was the primary sponsor of the 2007 World Solar Challenge which ran from October 21 to 28, 2007. For the challenge class several new rules were adopted, including the use of profiled tyres. Battery weight limits depend on secondary cell chemistries so that competitors have similar energy storage capabilities. The idea for the competition originates from Danish-born adventurer Hans Tholstrup. He was the first to circumnavigate the Australian continent in a 16-foot (4.9 m) open boat. At a later stage in his life he became involved in various competitions with fuel saving cars and trucks. Already in the 1980s, he became aware of the necessity to explore sustainable energy as a replacement for the limited available fossil fuel. Sponsored by BP, he designed the world’s first solar car, called Quiet Achiever, and traversed the 4052 km (2,518 miles) between Sydney and Perth in 20 days. That was the precursor of the World Solar Challenge. After the 4th race, he sold the rights to the state of South Australia and leadership of the race was assumed by Chris Selwood.The race was held every three years until 1999 when it was switched to every two years.

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