Bridgestone’s World Solar Challenge is an epic outback race from Darwin to Adelaide. But, it’s no ordinary car race. The vehicles that are created (by some of the world's smartest people) are completely powered by the sun and are designed to operate over a massive 3,000km distance.
The sun-powered race — spanning for over 30 years — pushes the boundaries of human imagination and technological innovation, and has allowed us to visualise a sustainable transport future! The World’s Solar Challenge isn't really about the ‘race’ at all! It’s about bringing innovation to life through the world’s sharpest minds, combined with a healthy dose of teamwork. So what's it all about?
What is The World Solar Challenge?
Occurring once every two years, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge allows secondary and tertiary students to design, engineer and build a solar-powered vehicle that can traverse across Australia’s driest, loneliest terrain.
In 2019, the event drew in 1,500 participants from 24 different countries and a massive 25 million spectators from all around the globe. It’s also like a big networking event — it generates massive interest and partnerships from energy, automotive, engineering, financial, material sciences, and IT sectors.
The challenge, according to the website, is a “test of team and technology”, which really emphasises how important teamwork is in this challenge, not to mention the logistics of creating a solar-powered vehicle!
The Route Through Australia
The route for the race is extremely long, but teams get to experience Australia’s iconic red terrain and the true outback. The race begins in Darwin in the Northern Territory. From there, participants must travel south through Katherine, Daly Waters, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Alice Springs, Kulgera, Coober Pedy, Glendambo, Port Augusta — finishing up in Adelaide, South Australia.
Classes Of The Solar Challenge
To participate and complete the World Solar Challenge, teams must choose a ‘Class’ to compete in. The three classes — Challenger, Cruiser and Adventure — represent the diversity of solar-powered vehicles and the different design philosophies.
The Challenger Class is for slick, aerodynamic vehicles with a single driver. The Cruiser Class is for practical, car-like vehicles with one driver and 1-2 passengers.
The Adventure Class is a bit different — it’s for non-competitive entrants who want to participate in the race and experience the joy of the journey.
Fun Fact: In 2017, the Cruiser Class winning vehicle carried three people over 3,000 km and used less than 46 kWh of electricity. The energy cost of the journey equated to less than $4.70 per person!
If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic sun-powered race, check out the documentary called Bright Future | The Story of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.
Unfortunately, the 16th edition of the World Solar Challenge won’t be going ahead this year in October. Understandably, the complexities of international border closures and Covid-19 have made it too difficult to organise.
Here’s hoping the event will go ahead in 2023! Here at F&F, we’re massive fans of the race and everything that it hopes to achieve. We definitely need more sustainable solutions for transportation, so it’s wonderful to see the world’s sharpest minds come together to innovate, engineer and build the future of low-carbon transport!
If you enjoyed this Eco News blog, make sure you check out more on The Eco Hub!