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2,500-Mile North American Solar Challenge Begins

Winners of the 2003 American Solar Challenge

The 11-day North American Solar Challenge (NASC) “rayce” kicks off today, with 20 qualifying cars racing 2,500 miles (4,023 km) from Austin, Texas to Calgary, Alberta.

Sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Natural Resources Canada (NRC), DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), TransAlta, University of Calgary, CSI Wireless, AMD and Manitoba Transportation and Government Services, the NASC is the longest solar car contest in the world, and the first to include the crossing of an international border.

The University of Minnesota, with its 7th-generation solar vehicle, the Borealis III, had the best qualifying time in the May qualifying event in Kansas and will start first, with the other cars following at 1-minute intervals in the order of their qualifying times.

The 350-pound Borealis III has a carbon fibre lower body and a Kevlar upper, and can “easily” cruise at 65 mph.

Iowa State University will start second, and Auburn University will leave third.

(You can follow the progress of Iowa State’s PrISUm Fusion through the use of amateur radio, GPS and a Google-map hack here.)

To qualify to compete in the NASC, each team had to drive its solar car at least 120 miles on the track at an average speed of at least 25 mph.

In September, Australia will host the 8th World Solar Challenge, in which cars race more than 3,000 km (1,865 miles) from Darwin to Adelaide.




I'd like to be there when these things run into a midwestern thunderstorm. It would be fun seing one of them take flight and sail into a corn field.

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