Innovation motors toward the finish line in Bi-annual World Solar Challenge  

65_aust_map_routeStretching from Darwin to Port Augusta and named for explorer John McDouall Stuart who was the first European explorer to travel the country from south to north, the Stuart Highway is the principal route through the central interior of mainland Australia. The terrain is grueling and often tormented by the unforgiving sun, making it the perfect scene for the bi-annual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Covering 3000km, 30 teams driving some of the most efficient electric vehicles ever constructed attempt to harness the sun and the kinetic energy of the vehicle to reach the finish line in Adelaide. In the spirit of friendly competition, all teams and drivers hope to deliver proof of concept and further research into appropriating solar power as a source for transportation.

Being a road race, the regulations dictate the physical dimensions of the car, and being a solar powered exercise there are limitations on the amount of stored energy the cars can utilise (only 5% of their total power output).


The regulations also divide the competition into numerous classes:

  • Electric Challenger Class – sleek, four-wheelers designed for aerodynamic efficiency and built for sustained endurance.
  • Cruiser Class – not built for speed, but practicality, with the ultimate goal of an entrant being able to meet the requirements for road registration.
  • Adventure Class – three-wheelers, often meeting earlier competition classifications allowing old or new team members the challenge of competing.

The competition attracts entrants from all over the world, including cars designed by energy conscious industry groups, and student teams from Universities and TAFEs.

Benefits from solar powered transport are not purely hypothetical, as illustrated recently when a student designed a solar powered vehicle designed to travel up to 15kms of Zimbabwean terrain to assist pregnant women in getting to hospitals. To date the number of home births in impoverished villages remains high, presenting an unnecessary health hazard.

Day 1 of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge kicked off in Darwin on Sunday 6th, and with the journey expected to take until the 10th there’s plenty of progress to follow. The event finishes with a parade through an Adelaide street circuit on the October 13th giving keen onlookers a chance to inspect the vehicles for themselves.

View the highlights from the launch here: