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World Solar Challenge

3,000km route of World Solar Challenge.
Nuna 3 of five time victors, Dutch Nuna team
The winner of 2009 Global Green Challenge, "Tokai Challenger", Japan Tokai University Solar Car Team
Nuna 7, winner of the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

The World Solar Challenge or the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge due to the sponsorship of Bridgestone Corporation is a biennial solar-powered car race which covers 3,021 km (1,877 mi) through the Australian Outback, from Darwin, Northern Territory to Adelaide, South Australia.[1]

The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The race has a 28-year history spanning twelve races, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987.


  • Objective 1
  • Racing strategy 2
  • Important rules 3
    • Rule evolution 3.1
  • History 4
    • 1987 4.1
    • 1990 4.2
    • 1993 4.3
    • 1996 4.4
    • 1999 4.5
    • 2001 4.6
    • 2003 4.7
    • 2005 4.8
    • 2007 4.9
    • 2009 4.10
    • 2011 4.11
    • 2013 4.12
    • 2015 4.13
  • See also 5
    • Other solar vehicle challenges 5.1
    • Movie 5.2
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The objective of this competition is to promote research on solar-powered cars. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 2013, 40 teams from 23 countries competed in the race.

Racing strategy

Efficient balancing of power resources and power consumption is the key to success during the race. At any moment in time the optimal driving speed depends on the weather forecast and the remaining capacity of the batteries. The team members in the escort cars will continuously remotely retrieve data from the solar car about its condition and use these data as input for prior developed computer programs to work out the best driving strategy.

It is equally important to charge the batteries as much as possible in periods of daylight when the car is not racing. To capture as much solar energy as possible, the solar panels are generally directed such that these are perpendicular to the incident sun rays. Sometimes the whole solar array is tilted for this purpose.

Important rules

  • The timed portion of the race stops at the outskirts of Adelaide, 2998 km from Darwin. However, for the timings recorded at that point to count, competitors must reach the official finish line in the centre of the city under solar power alone.
  • As the race is over public roads, the cars have to adhere to the normal traffic regulations; however, there is a special note in the official regulations remarking on the tendency of drivers to take advantage of a favourable road camber in order to capture the maximum amount of solar energy. After midday when the sun is in the west, it would be advantageous to drive on the right side of the highway, provided, of course, there is no traffic in opposite direction.
  • A minimum of 2 and maximum 4 drivers have to be registered. If the weight of a driver (including clothes) is less than 80 kg (180 lb), ballast will be added to make up the difference.
  • Driving time is between 8:00 and 17:00 (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). In order to select a suitable place for the overnight stop (alongside the highway) it is possible to extend the driving period for a maximum of 10 minutes, which extra driving time will be compensated by a starting time delay the next day.
  • At various points along the route there are checkpoints where every car has to pause for 30 minutes. Only limited maintenance tasks (no repairs) are allowed during these compulsory stops.
  • The capacity of the batteries is limited to a mass for each chemistry (such as Lithium Ion) equivalent to approximately 5 kWh maximum. At the start of the race, the batteries may be fully charged. Batteries may not be replaced during the competition, except in the situation of a breakdown. However, in that case a penalty time will apply.
  • Except for the maximum outer dimensions, there are no further restrictions on the design and construction of the car.
  • The deceleration of the dual braking system must be at least 3.8 m/s² (149.6 in/s²).

Rule evolution

  • By 2005, several teams were handicapped by the South Australian speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph), as well as the difficulties of support crews keeping up with 130 km/h (81 mph) race vehicles. It was generally agreed that the challenge of building a solar vehicle capable of crossing Australia at vehicular speeds had been met and exceeded. A new challenge was set: to build a new generation of solar car, which, with little modification, could be the basis for a practical proposition for sustainable transport.
  • Entrants to the 2007 race chose between racing in the Adventure and Challenge classes. Challenge class cars were restricted to 6 square meters of Si solar collectors (a 25% reduction), and later to 3 square meters for GaAs, driver access and egress were required to be unaided, seating position upright, steering controlled with a steering wheel, and many new safety requirements were added. Competitors also had to adhere to the new 130 km/h (81 mph) speed limit across the Northern Territory portion of the Stuart Highway. The 2007 event again featured a range of supplementary classes, including the Greenfleet class, which features a range of non-solar energy-efficient vehicles exhibiting their fuel efficiency.
  • For the 2009 challenge class several new rules were adopted, including the use of profiled tyres. Battery weight limits depend on secondary cell chemistries so that competitors have similar energy storage capabilities. Battery mass is now 20 kg for Li-ion and Li-polymer battery (was reduced from 25 and 21 kg in the past).
  • In 2013, a new Cruiser Class was introduced. The race took place in four stages. Final placings were based on a combination of time taken (56.6%), number of passengers carried (5.7%), battery energy from the grid between stages (18.9%), and a subjective assessment of practicality (18.9%)
  • In the 2015 Cruiser Class regulations, the scoring formula emphasized practicality less than before. Elapsed time will account for 70% of the score, passengers 5%, grid energy use 15%, and practicality 10%.


The idea for the competition originates from Danish-born adventurer Hans Tholstrup. He was the first to circumnavigate the Australian continent in a 16-foot (4.9 m) open boat. At a later stage in his life he became involved in various competitions with fuel saving cars and trucks. Already in the 1980s, he became aware of the necessity to explore sustainable energy as a replacement for the limited available fossil fuel. Sponsored by BP, he designed the world's first solar car, called The Quiet Achiever, and traversed the 4,052 km (2,518 mi) between Sydney, New South Wales and Perth, Western Australia in 20 days. That was the precursor of the World Solar Challenge.

After the 4th race, he sold the rights to the state of South Australia and leadership of the race was assumed by Chris Selwood.

The race was held every three years until 1999 when it was switched to every two years.


The first edition of the World Solar Challenge was run in 1987 when the winning entry, GM's Sunraycer won with an average speed of 67 km/h (42 mph).[2] Ford Australia's "Sunchaser" came in second. The "Solar Resource", which came in 7th overall, was first in the Private Entry category.[3]


The 1990 World Solar Challenge was won by the "Spirit of Biel", built by Biel School of Engineering and Architecture in Switzerland followed by Honda in second place.[4] Video coverage here.


The 1993 World Solar Challenge was won by the Honda Dream, and Biel School of Engineering and Architecture took second.[5] Video coverage here.


In the 1996 World Solar Challenge, the Honda Dream and Biel School of Engineering and Architecture once again placed first and second overall, respectively.[6]


The 1999 World Solar Challenge was finally won by a "home" team, the Australian Aurora team's Aurora 101 took the prize while Queen's University was the runner-up in the closely contested WSC so far. The SunRayce class of American teams was won by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[7]


The 2001 World Solar Challenge was won by Nuna of the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands, participating for the first time. Aurora took second place.[8]


In the 2003 World Solar Challenge Nuna 2, the successor to the winner of 2001 won again, with an average speed of 97 km/h (60 mph), while Aurora took second place again.[9]


In the 2005 World Solar Challenge the top finishers were the same for the third consecutive race as Nuon's Nuna 3 won with a record average speed of 102.75 km/h (63.85 mph), and Aurora was the runner-up.[10]


The 2007 World Solar Challenge saw the Dutch Nuon Solar team scored their fourth successive victory with Nuna 4 in the challenge class averaging 90.07 km/h (55.97 mph) under the new, more restrictive rules, while the Belgian Punch Powertrain Solar Team's Umicar Infinity placed second.[11]

The Japanese Ashiya team's Tiga won the adventure class under the old rules with an average speed of 93.53 km/h (58.12 mph).


The 2009 World Solar Challenge was won by the "Tokai Challenger", built by the Tokai University Solar Car Team in Japan with an average speed of 100.54 km/h (62.47 mph). The longtime reigning champion Nuon Solar Team's Nuna 5 finished in second place.[12]

The Sunswift IV built by students at the University of New South Wales, Australia was the winner of the silicon-based solar cell class, while Japan's Osaka Sangyo University's OSU Model S won the Adventure class.


In the 2011 World Solar Challenge Tokai University took their second title with an updated "Tokai Challenger" averaging 91.54 km/h (56.88 mph), and finishing just an hour before Nuna 6 of the Delft University of Technology.[13] The race was marred by delays caused by wildfires.


The Sunswift team from the University of New South Wales who were awarded Line Honours in the 2013 Cruiser Class

The 2013 World Solar Challenge featured the introduction of the Cruiser Class, which comprised more 'practical' solar cars with 2–4 occupants. The inaugural winner was Solar Team Eindhoven's Stella from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands with an average speed of 74.52 km/h (46.30 mph), while the second place team was the SunCruiser from Hochschule Bochum in Germany, who inspired the creation of the Cruiser Class by racing more practical solar cars in previous WSC races. The Australian team, the University of New South Wales solar racing team Sunswift was the fastest competitor to complete the race, but was awarded third place overall after points were awarded for 'practicality' and for carrying passengers.[14]

The German SunCruiser vehicle that inspired the new for 2013 Cruiser Class

In the challenger class, the Dutch team from Delft University of Technology took back the title with Nuna 7 and an average speed of 90.71 km/h (56.36 mph), while defending champions Tokai University finished second after an exciting close race, which saw a 10–30 minute race distance, though they drained the battery in final stint due to bad weather and finished some 3 hours later; an opposite situation of the previous challenge in 2011.[15]

The Adventure Class was won by Aurora's Aurora Evolution.[16]


The 2015 World Solar Challenge was held on October 18–25 with the same classes as the 2013 race.

World Solar Challenge 2015-Parade at Victoria Sqare in Adelaide, Australia

See also

Other solar vehicle challenges


  • Race the Sun, a movie loosely based on a participating team


  1. ^ WSC website
  2. ^ ifp lab site
  3. ^ Wakefield, E.H. History of the Electric Automobile: Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Washington: SAE International. 
  4. ^ ifp lab site
  5. ^ ifp lab site
  6. ^ ifp lab site
  7. ^ ifp lab site
  8. ^ WSC history page
  9. ^ ZDP Site
  10. ^ WSC history page
  11. ^ WSC 2007 results
  12. ^ WSC 2009 results
  13. ^ WSC 2011 results
  14. ^ WSC 2013 Cruiser class results
  15. ^ WSC 2013 Challenger class results
  16. ^ WSC 2013 Adventure class results

External links

  • Official website
  • Images from Alice Springs, Australia – 2007
  • An overview of all the competing teams in the 2013 WSC.
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