The basic idea of the challenge is based upon the objective of the reduction of emission: the teams are to build a vehicle, which is mainly powered by the sun to drive across the Australian continent from the North to the South. This encompasses a distance of 3.000 km, which is to be mastered in one week’s time from the 8 October until 15 October 2017.
But the journey starts much earlier for most team members. Approximately five weeks earlier the teams arrive in Australia to get settled in, to prepare logistics and to manage the technical details on the spot. It is not without reason that the challenge is a biennial event: two years are not much time when it comes to construct and build a complete new prototype of an electric solarcar, including the conceptual design, production, organisation, installation, and test drives.
When teams from around the globe meet in Australia and superb engineering performance goes hand in hand with experiencing a once in a lifetime adventure, then it is time for the World Solar Challenge. The biennial challenge is going to take place for the 14th time (until 1999 the event was hold every three years) and can look back onto an impressive history, during which the event and the regulations developed over the decades. However, the initial philosophy remained unaffected until today: every two years some of the brightest minds of young people shall come together to contemplate about the possibilities of sustainable mobility of tomorrow.
But the journey to this event starts much earlier. Apart from about 5 weeks, which the team spends before the actual race in Australia, in order to be able to coordinate all necessary organizational, logistical and technical details on the race on the spot, the race does not take place "just" every two years for nothing. Because this lead time is also sorely needed for the planning, design, design, manufacture, installation and test phase of a car that is to cross the Australian desert entirely without the internal combustion engine driven by the energy of our sun.
Especially the cruiser class experiences substantial changes of the regulations due to the organizer’s shift of focus away from pure speed towards future-oriented issues such as a practical development and cars with road authorisation. Furthermore, they decided to drop the limits for the size of the battery and the number of recharges by public power supply during the race. For the first time the speed is no longer taken into account for the final results – however, the teams are meant to arrive to the finish line in Adelaide within a given time frame. Aspects of sustainability and practicability moved to the cruiser class’s main focus.
Hereby, the teams are free to construct and build a car that becomes as close as possible to a conventional car suitable for the daily road use. Hence, participants and visitors may witness the next generation of electric vehicles.
The World Solar Challenge started out with one class in which the solarcars were to manage the long distance powered by solar energy. In 2017 the challenge, which wants to award the prize to the most efficient electric car, consists of three classes which address different purposes of SolarCars, as the development over the past two decades allowed a wide range of different focuses and hence requiring different regulations.
Teams can decide for themselves whether to build a car to participate in the Challenger Class, the Cruiser Class, or the Adventure Class. The primal differences of the classes are regarding the vehicle’s size, number of seats, maximal surface of solar cells and number of tires. A special attention by the public lies on the Cruiser class as here the solarcar teams are to deal with the present problems of the automotive industry and to find adequate solutions in terms of electro mobility. The cruiser solarcars’ main task is to contribute to the progress in sustainable mobility and to enhance practicability by building a car suitable for everyday use.