Saturday, December 5, 2009

World Solar Challenge

           Although the environmental need for alternatives to oil and gas-based energy is obvious, many people still do not consider this issue a priority. In order for technological advancements to be made and widely implemented, awareness needs to be raised. Once people begin to understand the significance of global warming and the devastation caused by greenhouse gas emissions, policies and technologies will follow as more human energy and time is put into the matter. 
         On that note, the World Solar Challenge, held in Australia, is a competition that features a solar car race. Turning the development of solar technology into a competition both instigates progress and rallies support and awareness. The competition ran from October 24th through the 31st of 2009, and was the 10th run, the first being in 1987. The competition was pioneered by the Australian Tourism Commission. The course is from Darwin to Adelaide, and it spans about 1,864 miles (3000 km). It uses real existing roads, as opposed to many concept alternative-energy vehicles that never make it off of the test track.
          In 1987, GM won the first race with the Sunraycer. It was the world's first race that featured solar-powered cars. The Sunraycer actually led to the development of the GM Impact, an electric concept car. The Impact then led to the EV-1, which was then leased out to a few customers in the 1990's. Now the Chevy Volt, the EV-1's contemporary, is scheduled for release to the market in 2011 (It runs 40 miles on a single charge, then has a gasoline internal combustion engine to extend its range to over 3oo miles). 
          The race is linked to the reality of car driving and use, and is slowly changing the competition rules to make the vehicles more and more functional to everyday use—this year a new rule required entrants to use regular tires, rather than the previously used low rolling-resistance tires, which increased drag on the vehicles. 
         This year's winner was the Japanese Toaki University's Tokai Challenger. The University of Michigan took3rd place, and won the Technical Innovation Award for advances in teh A123 Systems LiFePO4 batteries.
At the starting line.
Tokai University team celebrating the win.
The Tokai Challenger
Australian sunset over the World Solar Challenge race.


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