Dutch car wins solar power race. Is technology that far behind?

A sun-powered car race at the World Solar Challenge in Australia demonstrates the growing appeal of solar. But challenges remain for researchers in the field to overcome.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP
The University of Michigan Solar Car Team car competes during the first day of the 2015 World Solar Challenge near Katherine, Australia, on Sunday. The race features 45 solar cars from 25 different countries in a 3,000 km race from Darwin to Adelaide.

A Dutch car overtakes a competitor going 81 miles per hour through the blazing Australian outback, then resumes cruising speed at 56 m.p.h., finishing the 1,800 mile race first – all without using a gallon of gas.

The solar car race in Australia on Thursday, which a vehicle from Delft University won for the second consecutive time, displays the upper limits of solar power, and researchers are challenged to develop a working car that could lead to a consumer model.

The main rule of the World Solar Challenge, a race for about 50 cars occurring every two years since 1987, is that cars must use the sun for power, the BBC reported. Cars may store only 5 kilowatts of energy – by contrast, a single light bulb on for 10 hours a day uses about 4 kilowatts a week, according to Forbes. Each car must take the rest of its power from the sun or from the motion of the car itself.

The Australian outback provides plenty of sun, although even that abundant heat creates its own challenges.

"(Distilled water) is used to spray over solar arrays at control stops to keep the temperature down (and consequently: to maximize the output)," Michael Van Baal, the winning team's spokesman, wrote on the Nuon Solar Team blog. "Finding demi-water in October is pretty hopeless, as all top teams need it, so you better stock up early."

The distilled water is better than tap water, which leaves a layer of salt on the solar panels as it evaporates.

"The past decade has been a remarkable time for the solar industry. Last year up to a third of all new generation capacity in the US was solar," Francis O’Sullivan, director of research and analysis at MIT’s Energy Initiative, told The Christian Science Monitor. "However, continued rapid growth in solar is not an inevitability."

Solar power technology, such as Tesla's idea of storing solar energy in batteries for home use has potential. But it is not ready for use, Bloomberg reported.

"Despite the Tesla announcement, we’re not there yet," said Richard Schmalensee, chairman of an MIT Future of Solar Energy study, according to The Christian Science Monitor. "We’re not close to being there yet."

Working with solar power continues to require a full measure of flexibility. The World Solar Challenge started Sunday in Darwin, Australia, and ended Thursday in Adelaide, the BBC reported.

Temperatures reached 111 degrees Fahrenheit, and the racers did not want to use an ounce of their sun-produced energy on air-conditioning. The drivers exercised and trained in heat rooms beforehand to prepare. But during the race itself, their best ally was water, UPI News reported. The Delft University team even put a hole in the car itself to drain out the sweat the drivers generated under the blazing sun.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Dutch car wins solar power race. Is technology that far behind?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today