The winner of this year’s Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – a race dotted by withdrawals and a catastrophic fire that destroyed the one-time leading vehicle – has crossed the line, although the race is far from over.
Just hours after Dutch team Vattenfall suffered a crushing blow when its vehicle burst into flames just 263km from the finish line, Belgium’s Agoria team became the first to cross the line shortly after 1:30pm local time on Thursday.
— Agoria Solar Team (@solarteam_be) October 17, 2019
Amid all this, there is still much racing – or rather, cruising – to be done in the race, which commenced on Sunday in Darwin and traverses more than 3,000km of Australian outback before finishing in Adelaide.
The first solar cars across the line were competing in the Challenger Class, but numerous teams will continue competing over the next few days, with a winner for Cruiser Class to be announced on Saturday.
The Challenger class seeks to encourage sleek, single seater solar cars designed for “sustained endurance and total energy efficiency”.
It requires design teams to apply lateral thinking in order to cram the greatest solar energy collection capacity in a smaller area, at the same time casting an eye to creating visually aesthetic design.
— Bridgestone World Solar Challenge ☀️ (@WorldSolarChlg) October 17, 2019
The Cruiser class on the other hand, which must carry at least two people over the 3,000+ route using the least amount of energy possible, is focused on factors such as payload, energy consumption and practical design.
This means that a winner cannot be announced until after the race when efficiency is calculated, and the vehicles’ practicality and design are judged.
Each team in the Cruiser Class must complete the race in three legs, travelling around 1,200km on each leg without recharging.
Teams with the finish line now in sight include Dutch team Eindhoven, Australia’s own team from UNSW, Sunswift, and Hong Kong’s IVE Engineering team.
Eindhoven has so far gained the most points with 94.79 as of Thursday, followed by Sunswift with 50.55 points and IVE with 39.77 points.
Follow our last stint towards Adelaide via https://t.co/c1S31MVxSp (team 40, go #Eindhoven!). Don't get confused by the order of teams on the road, the Cruiser Class is about points scored! #BWSC19 #Finish @TUeindhoven
— Solar Team Eindhoven (@SolarEHV) October 17, 2019
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.