Star Cruiser

PHOTO: CLARO CORTES IV/REUTERS

The Aurora 101 solar race car attracted photographers at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum, an annual exhibition of automotive technology held last October in Shanghai, China. Built by a nonprofit group of engineers in Melbourne, Australia, Aurora 101 won the premier solar car race, the World Solar Challenge, in 1999. The car finished second in the 1987, 2001, and 2003 races. In 2001, it competed fiercely and memorably with the world-champion Dutch solar racer, known as Nuna [see "Sun Kings Cross the Outback," IEEE Spectrum, February 2002]. In 2003, it just barely beat a racer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Nuna took first place again that year, with an average speed of 97.02 kilometers per hour.)

The Challenge Bibendum, which showcases clean and alternative vehicle technologies, was created in 1998 to mark the 100th anniversary of the first rendering of the rotund, iconic Michelin Man. The cartoonish character is officially known as Bibendum, because one of the original drawings had him hoisting a beer mug and exclaiming "Nunc est bibendum!" (Latin for "Now is the time to drink!"). The beer glass was soon replaced with a jar of nails, emphasizing the tires' ability to "swallow" obstacles in their path.

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