The Tech Behind the Winning Solar Car

A mix of satellite-grade solar cells, good batteries, a new motor, and a little luck

3 min read

The race stats are impressive: 3000 kilometers over four days on zero gas, zero emissions, and an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour. That's how Japan's Tokai Challenger solar car came in first at the 2009 Global Green Challenge in Australia on 29 October, roughly three hours ahead of second place Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands and the team from the University of Michigan, which came in third. There were 29 other also-rans as well. The race (previously called the World Solar Challenge) has taken place every two or three years since 1987 and runs from Darwin in northern Australia through the country's sun-baked center to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.

The victorious Tokai Challenger broke a streak of four previous consecutive wins by Nunas,  a succession of cars designed and built by teams at the Netherland's Delft University of Technology. The only other Japanese team to triumph before was one from Honda Motor Co., in 1993 and 1996.

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Greg Mably

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