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Power Technology

World Solar Challenge Started in Australian Desert 113

Posted by Zonk
from the go-sun-go dept.
photonic writes "The World Solar Challenge has just finished the first racing day. It is a 3000 kilometer race from Darwin to Adelaide for cars that are powered by solar energy only. The results from this day have not yet been published, but intermediate results suggest that the Dutch Nuon Solar Team is again on the lead. This team from Delft University of Technology has a reputation to uphold since they also won the previous two races in 2001 and 2003, the last one in a record breaking 97 km/h average. The Tesseract team from MIT was less fortunate: during the qualification they got off track and rolled over. After some fixing up they still managed to qualify into 7th place on battery power, but with substantial damage to the solar panel their challenge will be finishing rather than winning."
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World Solar Challenge Started in Australian Desert

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  • solar energy only? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by n01 (693310) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:14PM (#13645082)
    What does "for cars that are powered by solar energy only" mean. Do the batteries need to be empty at the start of the trip? Or as full as they were at the start when the cars reach the finish?

    Otherwise I wouldn't count it as "solar energy only", even though they might have charged the accumulators beforehand through the solar panels.

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  • by DoubleRing (908390) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:19PM (#13645122)
    It takes a lot of work to build one of these cars. Plus, using them is a lot of work. Think of it this way: you're out in blazing sunlight, no fans or ac (would be using too much extra power, which you can't afford). You start as soon as your car will start (a few minutes after the crack of dawn) and keep going until your car's battery runs down. You don't stop at a hotel because, most probably, there isn't one where you stop. These guys are really building the future. And I respect that.

    On another note, does anyone know of a similar competition using hydrogen feul?
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:29PM (#13645183)
    As much as I love these contests, I'm not sure they provide much beyond marketing. The skills and technologies needed to create a hand-built, one-off, contest-winner are totally different from those needed to create a factory that makes millions of mass-produced, affordable, everyday vehicles. Its not that hard to make "a" solar-powered car where student labor is free and the solar vehicle runs with a caravan of gas-powered support vehicles. But the real key is to create the manufacturing infrastructure to make millions of them at an affordable price. Other problems, such as a shortage of polysilicon and increasing solar cell prices [zdnet.com] highlight this problem of mass production and have a much bigger effect on the adoption of solar power.

    I hope these contests continue, but I also hope people don't think that these contests are solving the real-world problems of applying solar power.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:43PM (#13645265) Journal
    this type of contest will lead to advantageous developments in both solar energy generation and electrical power usage. Both of these can lead to a greener world. Sounds coy, but if everyone was contributing to the power grid instead of only sucking from it, the reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy would decrease. This is better for everyone (I'm NOT anti-nuclear or a global warming nutjob) and the planet as well.

    As stupid as it sounds, I think that trying to use cleaner energy will lead us to better use of just about everything. If power were essentially free for all to use, there would be a massive shift of cultural and business boundaries. Anyone can donate farm equipment to poor 3rd world countries, but continuous powering of that equipment is the down side. If you teach them to fish with a huge fishing vessel, you still have to show them how to power it.

    I'm not saying that power/energy generation and usage is the crux of the world's problems, but when you look at the list of problems, pick the one that gives you the biggest bang for buck when it is fixed, engergy generation/usage is close or at the top of that list.

    So, in respect of the possible outcomes of such racing events, I have high hopes that it will lead the world to better ways of doing things. Hybrid cars are a good start, but the technology is still lagging behind where we really need it to be. Approximately 10-25% of US household budgets will be spent on fuels and energy this winter because of the recent hurricanes, damage, and of course price gouging. If we all had the capability of generating at least some of our own energy, it would be competition to other fuel/energy sources... which hopefully would drop the price as well as reliance on oil companies. This can't be anything other than good.

    Perhaps windmills on the roofs are not a safe/good idea, but we need something.
  • by DoubleRing (908390) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @01:49PM (#13645299)
    Remember that this technology is still pretty new. It'll get better eventually (most probably in hybrid form with maybe hydrogen).
  • by technoextreme (885694) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:06PM (#13645400)
    Muahahha.... I predict a spinach powered car competition.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6434 [newscientist.com]
  • They exist. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @02:12PM (#13645434)
    You can get solar-powered lights, genius. You get a solar cell, hook it up to a supercapacitor or a rechargable battery, and hook that up to an LED. Control the whole thing with a switch or a phototransistor and you've got a solar-powered light.

    I guess you haven't heard about Carmanah Technologies (who make solar-powered lights for bus stops, navigation bouys, etc.) or Engineers without Borders (who provide solar-powered lights for kids in impovershed countries so they can read at night).

    Or were you trying to be funny? Old carrot-top routines from 20 years ago just don't cut it once technology improves.
  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker.gmail@com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:13PM (#13645741) Journal
    Yes, but as well the average person drives their car at most 2 hours a day. The sun up 8-16 hours a day. Assuming 12 hours a day of sun that gives you 1 hour of 19.2 (using your 1.6 estimate) horsepower. Still nothing huge, but combine this with a hybrid system its simply one more thing to add to the equasion. Of course a pluggable hybrid that connects to a large scale solar would make more sense. I assume this technology is more about how to get the most miles for the least horsepower, as well as improved solar conversion.
  • by Shihar (153932) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:40PM (#13645901)
    Control population growth - why should there be infinite population growth on a finite planet? Sure you can increase the population when you terraform mars, but there should be a cap on earth's population, there is nothing morally good about having more people, it just means we all get a thinner slice of the pie. We passed six billion in 1999 we are almost at 6.5 billion in 2005, totally unsustainable rate of growth.

    How exactly do you propose controlling the population? Take the Chinese approach and make it so that if you have a second child the family and that second child are economically screwed for the rest of his life due to systematic government discrimination? Mandatory monthly pregnancy testing along with forced abortions? Maybe you advocate mandatory birth control that can only be removed by government mandate. What exactly is it you advocate? Some authoritarian solution inflicted upon the already impoverished and repressed nations of the world?

    The best solution is the one that has been proven to be 100% effective. Try and bring the rest of the world up to first world standards. All of Western Europe is currently experiencing population decline so sharp that it is threatening their social welfare programs (too many people using, not enough working). The US currently has negative population growth if you factor our immigration. Japan is in the same boat as Europe. When people are not impoverished and miserable, they stop cranking out kids. Fix poverty and the population will fix its self. As China has proven most effectively, authoritarian population control 'solutions' just leads to infanticide, massive imbalances in the population, greater human misery, corruption as to who is allowed to have children, and simply fail to solve the problem.

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