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The Sun Race Gets Real

After a radical rule change, can the defending champion Nuon Solar Team win a fourth straight World Solar Challenge?

4 min read

Every two years, some of the world’s brightest young technologists get together in Australia to race across the continent on sunbeams alone. This World Solar Challenge, as it is known, is one of the greatest technology-based competitions on Earth. And since entering their first car in 2001, teams from the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, have never lost.

Can the Dutch team grab an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the 2007 race? Despite the team’s recent domination (the smallest margin of victory was 33 minutes), it’s not a sure thing. The reason is that this year, it’s going to be a whole new race. In the 2005 contest the team’s winning entry, Nuna3, averaged 103 kilometers per hour—pretty close to the 110 km/h official speed limit on many Australian highways. So for this year’s race, which begins on 21 October, race officials rewrote the rules to make the cars safer—and, probably, slower.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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