Solar-powered car race kicks off 30 years of World Solar Challenge


World Solar Challenge 2017

World Solar Challenge 2017

Enlarge Photo

Although a car powered solely by solar power is far from reality, the 30th anniversary of the World Solar Challenge showcased just how far the technology has come.

World Solar Challenge kicked off its celebrations with this year's iteration of the solar-powered car race in Darwin, Australia, on Sunday.

From the starting point, the teams will travel 1,880 miles south to Adelaide, with the sun as their only source of propulsion.

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In total, 42 solar-powered cars will take part in the race this year, which represents the largest field of competitors throughout the event's 30-year history.

The challenge splits 42 cars into three classes: "challenger," "cruiser," and "adventure," reports Reuters.

Challenger-class cars focus on outright speed, while cruiser-class vehicles boast efficiency, neat packaging, and two or more seats.

World Solar Challenge 2017

World Solar Challenge 2017

Enlarge Photo

The adventure-class cars are non-competitive; this class allows previously built cars to run the challenge again, normally with new teams piloting them.

The challenger-class teams have one time to beat: make the trip in less than 30 hours, which is the reigning world record set at the challenge's 2009 outing.

The solar technology implemented with the cars shows the rate solar-power has matured.

READ THIS: More solar energy was added in 2016 than natural gas or wind

At this year's competition, challenger-class cars can have no more than 43 square feet of solar cells versus nearly 65 square feet for the previous race in 2015.

With the technology's improvements, vehicles can go further distances with fewer solar cells.

In production cars, solar power is becoming a viable solution to power various facets of the car.

World Solar Challenge 2017

World Solar Challenge 2017

Enlarge Photo

Audi and Alta Devices recently debuted their translucent solar cell that can capture and store energy in glass roofs—the cells wouldn't obstruct a driver's view in, say, a panoramic sunroof.

The captured energy wouldn't power the wheels themselves, but Audi said accessories such as air conditioning, heated seats, and other areas could benefit.

CHECK OUT: Transparent solar cells to let Audi capture energy from glass roofs

Additionally, solar cells could extend an electric car's range since the battery pack wouldn't be responsible for powering various parts of the vehicle.

The solar cells are far from production ready, however.

Farther out into the future, Audi believes solar cells could even charge an electric car's battery on a sunny day.

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