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World Solar Challenge

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Bridgestone World Solar Challenge
World Solar Challenge
VenueStuart Highway
Corporate sponsorBridgestone
First race1987
Distance3,022 km (1,878 mi)
Duration4-7 days
Most wins (team)Nuon (Challenger)
Eindhoven (Cruiser)
3,000km route of World Solar Challenge.
Nuna 3 of seven time victors, Dutch Nuna team
The winner of 2009 Global Green Challenge, "Tokai Challenger", Japan Tokai University Solar Car Team

The World Solar Challenge (WSC), since 2013 named Bridgestone World Solar Challenge,[1] is an international event for solar powered cars driving 3000 kilometres through the Australian outback.

With the exception of a four-year gap between the 2019 and 2023 events, owing to the cancellation of the 2021 event,[2] the World Solar Challenge is typically held every two years. The course is over 3,022 kilometres (1,878 miles) through the Australian Outback, from Darwin, Northern Territory, to Adelaide, South Australia. The event was created to foster the development of solar-powered vehicles.[3]

The WSC attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations, although some are fielded by high schools. It has a 32-year history spanning fifteen events, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987. Initially held once every three years, the event became biennial from the turn of the century.

Since 2001 the WSC was won seven times out of ten efforts by the Nuna team and cars of the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands. The Tokai Challenger, built by the Tokai University of Japan, was able to win 2009 and 2011. In the most recent editions (2019 & 2023), the Belgian Innoptus Solar Team formerly known as the Agoria Solar Team from KU Leuven University won.

Starting in 2007, the WSC has multiple classes. After the German team of Bochum University of Applied Sciences competed with a four-wheeled, multi-seat car, the BoCruiser (in 2009), in 2013 a radically new "Cruiser Class" was introduced, stimulating the technological development of practically usable, and ideally road-legal, multi-seater solar vehicles. Since its inception, Solar Team Eindhoven's four- and five-seat Stella solar cars from Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) won the Cruiser Class in all four events so far.

Remarkable technological progress has been achieved since the General Motors led, highly experimental, single-seat Sunraycer prototype first won the WSC with an average speed of 66.9 km/h (41.6 mph). Once competing cars became steadily more capable to match or exceed legal maximum speeds on the Australian highway, the challenge rules were consistently made more demanding and challenging — for instance after Honda's Dream car first won with an average speed exceeding 55 mph (88.5 km/h) in 1996. In 2005 the Dutch Nuna team were the first to beat an average speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

The 2017 Cruiser class winner, the five-seat Stella Vie vehicle, was able to carry an average of 3.4 occupants at an average speed of 69 km/h (43 mph). Like its two predecessors, the vehicle was successfully road registered by the Dutch team, further emphasizing the great progress in real-world compliance and practicality that has been achieved.[4][5]

The WSC held its 30th anniversary event on 8–15 October 2017.



The objective of the challenge is to promote the innovation of solar-powered cars. It is a design competition at its core, and every team/car that successfully crosses the finish line is considered successful. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 2015, 43 teams from 23 countries competed in the challenge.[6]

Challenge strategy


Efficient balancing of power resources and power consumption is the key to success during the challenge. 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 driving. 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 challenge 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 challenge utilises public roads, the cars have to adhere to the normal traffic regulations.
  • 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 route, 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) solar 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 event 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 route 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%.
  • In 2017, solar array areas were reduced, and the Cruiser Class was changed to a Regularity Trial, with scoring based on energy efficiency and practicality.



The idea for the competition originates from Danish-born adventurer Hans Tholstrup.[7][8] 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 WSC.

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

The event 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).[9] Ford Australia's "Sunchaser" came in second. The "Solar Resource", which came in 7th overall, was first in the Private Entry category.[10]



The 1990 WSC was won by the "Spirit of Biel", built by Biel School of Engineering and Architecture in Switzerland followed by Honda in second place.[11] Video coverage here.



The 1993 WSC was won by the Honda Dream, and Biel School of Engineering and Architecture took second.[12] Video coverage here.



In the 1996 WSC, the Honda Dream and Biel School of Engineering and Architecture once again placed first and second overall, respectively.[13]



The 1999 WSC 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 most closely contested WSC so far. The SunRayce class of American teams was won by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[14]



The 2001 WSC was won by Nuna of the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands, participating for the first time. Aurora took second place.[15][16][17]



In the 2003 WSC 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.[18]



In the 2005 WSC the top finishers were the same for the third consecutive event 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.[15]



The 2007 WSC saw the Dutch Nuon Solar team score 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.[19]

The Adventure Class was added this year, run under the old rules, and won by Japanese Ashiya team's Tiga.

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


In 2009, the BO-Cruiser prototype from Bochum (Germany) stood out by a more practical, real world design, sporting 4 wheels and multiple seats

The 2009 WSC 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.[20]

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 WSC 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.[21] The challenge was marred by delays caused by wildfires.



The 2013 WSC 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 second place was taken by the PowerCore SunCruiser vehicle from team Hochschule Bochum in Germany, who inspired the creation of the Cruiser Class[citation needed] by racing more practical solar cars in previous WSC events. The Australian team, the University of New South Wales solar racing team Sunswift was the fastest competitor to complete the route, but was awarded third place overall after points were awarded for 'practicality' and for carrying passengers.[22]

The 2013 German PowerCore SunCruiser entry for 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 competition, which saw a 10–30 minute 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.[23]

The Adventure Class was won by Aurora's Aurora Evolution.[24]


In 2015 Solar team Eindhoven won the Cruiser Class again with their Stella Lux "family car".

The 2015 WSC was held on 15–25 October with the same classes as the 2013 challenge.

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

In the Cruiser Class, the winner was once again Solar Team Eindhoven's Stella Lux from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands with an average speed of 76.73 km/h (47.68 mph), while the second place team was Kogakuin University from Japan who was the first to cross the finish line, but did not receive as many points for passenger-kilometers and practicality. Bochum took 3rd place this year with the latest in their series of cruiser cars.[25]

In the Challenger Class, the team from Delft University of Technology retained the title with Nuna 8 and an average speed of 91.75 km/h (57.01 mph), while their Dutch counterparts, the University of Twente, who led most of the challenge, finished just 8 minutes behind them in second place, making 2015 the closest finish in WSC history. Tokai University passed the University of Michigan on the last day of the event to take home the bronze.[26]

The Adventure Class was won by the Houston High School solar car team from Houston, Mississippi, United States.[27]



The 2017 WSC was held on 8–15 October, featuring the same classes as 2015. The Dutch NUON team won again in the Challenger class, which concluded on 2017-10-12, and in the Cruiser Class, the winner was once again Solar Team Eindhoven, from the Netherlands as well.[28]



The 2019 WSC was held from 13 to 20 October. 53 teams from 24 countries entered the competition,[29][30] featuring the same three classes, Challenger (30 teams), Cruiser (23 teams) and Adventure.[31] In the Challenger class, Agoria Solar Team (formerly Punch Powertrain) won for the first time. Tokai University Solar Car Team finished in second place.[32]

In the Cruiser class, Solar Team Eindhoven won their fourth consecutive title.[33] Despite multiple incidents on the road, Team Sonnenwagen Aachen managed to beat other teams and finished in 6th position.

Several teams had mishaps. Vattenfall was leading when their car Nuna X caught fire. The driver was uninjured, but the vehicle was destroyed. It was the first no-finish for that team in 20 years.[30] Others were badly affected by strong winds.

Dutch team Twente was leading the journey at 100 km/h (62 mph), when their car was forced off the road by winds and rolled over. The driver was taken to hospital. Within 30 minutes team Sonnenwagen Aachen was also blown off the road north of Coober Pedy, the driver was not hurt. An 80 km/h (50 mph) speed limit was then imposed by event officials, lifted when conditions improved. The day before, wind damage to solar panels put the team from Western Sydney University out of the challenge. The driver of Agoria from Belgium escaped injury when their vehicle was "uprooted" at 100 km/h (62 mph) by severe winds, but still went on to win the Challenger class.[30][34]



In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia the WSC closed entries three months earlier than normal, on 18 December 2020. They were then to "… review all current government measures relating to social distancing, density and contact tracing, international travel restrictions and isolation requirements."[35] On 12 February 2021, the South Australian Government confirmed the cancellation of the 2021 staging of the event. While the COVID-19 pandemic was not explicitly cited as the reason, the "complexities of international border closures" affecting Australia at the time appear to be the primary reason for the event's cancellation. The same statement also noted the next event would take place in October 2023 - at least 962 days from the date of announcement, and resulting in a four-year gap between events.[2] Registered teams should receive a full refund of all fees.[35]



The 2023 World Solar Challenge was held from October 22-29. At the beginning of the race, 31 teams were participating, with 23 in the Challenger division and 8 in the Cruiser division.[36] The Challenger division was won by defending champions Innoptus (formerly Agoria) with an average speed of 88.2km/h, and the Cruiser division was won by UNSW Sunswift with a score of 91.1.[37][38] Uniquely, no Cruisers were able to finish the race this year.

Many of the leading teams faced trouble during the competition. Dutch team Top Dutch raced on a perovskite-tandem solar array damaged from testing in the month leading up to race. Michigan experienced electrical issues during qualifying and had to start last. German team Sonnenwagen was blown off the road just outside of Port Agusta and had to withdraw due to new regulations.[39] Tokai had to stop for several hours on Day 4 to repair their car after sustaining damage from crossing a cattle grid. Kogakuin had consistent problems with their MPPT charge controller, and reported in an Instagram post that their panels were generating less than half the power than they should have been.[40] On the fifth day of the competition, only 4 teams (Innoptus, Twente, Brunel, and Michigan) had finished the course, and by the official end of timing, only 12 teams made it to the finish line successfully.

See also


Other solar vehicle challenges





  1. ^ "Mission: Serving Society with Superior Quality". 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Bridgestone. 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b "2021 CHALLENGE UPDATE". worldsolarchallenge.org. South Australian Tourist Commission. 12 February 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021. The 16th edition of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will not go ahead from 22-30 October this year.
  3. ^ "History". worldsolarchallenge.org. South Australian Tourism Commission. 9 February 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  4. ^ "KENTEKEN CHECK PP-301-S (Dutch public registration info for license-plate PP-301-S)" (in Dutch). Autoweek.nl. 6 August 2017. Archived from the original on 8 October 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  5. ^ "2015 Team List". World Solar Challenge. 5 June 2015. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  6. ^ "An epic journey revisited". The People & Environment Blog. National Museum of Australia. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  7. ^ Barry, Courtney (22 October 2003). "RACING; Here They Come, as Fast as the Sun Will Carry Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  8. ^ 1987 World Solar Teams IFP Lab Site, Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  9. ^ Wakefield, Ernest H. (1 October 1998). History of the Electric Automobile (Softbound). SAE International. ISBN 978-0-7680-0125-9. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  10. ^ 1990 World Solar Challenge Teams IFP Lab Site, Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  11. ^ 1993 World Solar Challenge Entry List IFP lab site, Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  12. ^ 1996 World Solar Challenge Team IFP Lab Site, Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  13. ^ 1999 World Solar Challenge Teams IFP Lab Site, Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Honour Roll - 1987 to 2013". World Solar Challenge. 4 June 2014. Archived from the original on 11 June 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Final Results for the 2001 Solar Odyssey". World Solar Challenge. 27 November 2001. Archived from the original on 13 June 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Teams List 2001". World Solar Challenge. Archived from the original on 6 June 2002. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Zero to Darwin Project - 2003WSC - Final result". www.zdp.co.jp (in Japanese). 28 October 2003. Archived from the original on 30 October 2005. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  18. ^ WSC 2007 results
  19. ^ WSC 2009 results
  20. ^ WSC 2011 results
  21. ^ "WSC 2013 Cruiser class results" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  22. ^ WSC 2013 Challenger class results
  23. ^ "WSC 2013 Adventure class results" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  24. ^ WSC 2015 Cruiser class results
  25. ^ WSC 2015 Challenger class results
  26. ^ "WSC 2015 Adventure class results" (PDF). World Solar Challenge. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  27. ^ "2017 World Solar Challenge Results". World Solar Challenge. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  28. ^ "CHARGING THE FUTURE – NEXT-GEN DREAMS TO REALITY | World Solar Challenge 2019". www.worldsolarchallenge.org. Archived from the original on 16 July 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  29. ^ a b c Slessor, Camron; Campbell, Claire (17 October 2019). "Leading car at World Solar Challenge bursts into flames forcing team Vattenfall out of challenge". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  30. ^ "Chasing the sun: the World Solar Challenge 2019". The Guardian. 19 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Agoria claims first title". worldsolarchallenge.org. South Australian Tourism Commission. 17 October 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  32. ^ "It's cruise control all the way for Solar Team Eindhoven". worldsolarchallenge.org. South Australian Tourism Commission. 21 October 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  33. ^ Campbell, Claire; Opie, Rebecca (16 October 2019). "Two cars blown off road during World Solar Challenge near Coober Pedy". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  34. ^ a b "COVID-19 and the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge". worldsolarchallenge.org. South Australian Tourism Commission. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  35. ^ "Charging towards the future…31 teams off to chase the sun… | World Solar Challenge 2023". worldsolarchallenge.org. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  36. ^ "World Solar Challenge 2023". worldsolarchallenge.org. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  37. ^ "World Solar Challenge 2023". worldsolarchallenge.org. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  38. ^ "Day 5: We are out of the race!". Team Sonnenwagen Aachen. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  39. ^ "Instagram". www.instagram.com. Retrieved 20 December 2023.