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World Solar Challenge car race begins in Australia

An epic solar car race has begun in Australia, with vehicles crossing the country's tropical north to its southern shores. The World Solar Challenge aims to showcase technology that could be used for commercial purposes.

The 2017 World Solar Challenge, which started up in 1987, began Sunday from the northern Australian city of Darwin. The 42 solar cars participating in the race will take up to a week to reach the southern city of Adelaide, 3,000 kilometers (1864 miles) away, with an average speed of 90-100 kilometers per hour (55-62 mph).

The route will take the cars through some of the driest regions on earth.

Dutch team Nuon is aiming to defend its 2015 title, but Belgium's Punch Powertrain surprisingly won Saturday's time trial.

Watch video 01:15

Solar-powered cars begin race across Australian outback

"We knew our car was good, but we never expected pole because there are a lot of competitors over here, a lot of very fast-looking cars," team manager Joachin Verheyen told reporters.

 

In 2009, Japan's Tokai University's solar car recorded the fastest time by completing the race in only 29 hours and 49 minutes.

The Nuon team believes it can retain the title.

"All the cars look completely different [this year], and all we know is we've got a good car, we've got it running perfectly the last couple of days and we are confident we're going to do everything to win," tour manager Sarah Benninkbolt told media on Sunday.

Teams from more than 40 countries, including the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia, are participating in the race.

Read more: Around the world in a solar car

Australien 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Mariuz)

Dutch team Nuon is aiming to defend the title

Making renewable energy a reality

"This is the 30th anniversary of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, and competitors want to be part of that. They have been drawn to the challenge of new regulations which reduced the solar array size without limiting the size of the solar car," race director Chris Selwood said.

"Of course, the point of this challenge is not just to go fast, or to develop technology that will never reach the mainstream. Our founder, Hand Tholstrup, and competitors past and present, are all determined to make sustainable, energy-positive, solar electric cars and renewable energy a reality," Selwood added.

Read more: The global climate needs greener transport

The Solar Team Twente car from the Netherlands competes during the qualification lap for the 2017 World Solar Challenge at Hidden Valley race track in Darwin (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Wijngaert)

On Sunday, 42 Solar cars from 21 different countries will start a 3,000 kilometer (1864 miles) race from Darwin to Adelaide

Google co-founder Larry Page and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel are past competitors who acknowledge that the event has influenced their careers.

Read more: Google, a Global Player - How a Company Influences Our Lives

Participating teams are allowed to store a small amount of energy but most power must be generated from the sun.

Crews are allowed to drive between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. each day

shs/tj (Reuters, AFP)

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