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Asia Minute: Australia’s World Solar Challenge

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

More than 6,200 electric vehicles are now registered in the state of Hawai‘i—up from about 4,000 in early 2016. That’s according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which tracks the numbers.  While the use of electric cars is growing in the Aloha State, a different kind of alternative energy vehicle is in focus this week down under. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The World Solar Challenge came to life this week under a baking Australian sun.

It’s a road race of 3,000 kilometers, more than 1,800 miles, for solar-powered vehicles.

The route cuts through the center of Australia—from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south.

More than 40 entries from 21 countries are taking part.

Teams race while the sun is up, and then pull over to the side of the road to spend the night.

It’s the 30th version of the race—which is now held every other year.

There are different categories.

Wikimedia Commons
Credit Wikimedia Commons
Tokai Challenger on Stuart Highway

The “Challenger Class” has aerodynamic designs built for fuel efficiency and sustained speed—recent winners have averaged about 56 miles an hour.

The “Cruiser Class” features technology that’s much closer to what can be used in mainstream production vehicles.

A Dutch team is the defending champion, a Belgian entry won the pole position, and university teams from Japan, the United States and Australia are among the early leaders. Iran also has a car in the race.

Past competitors include Larry Page—the co-founder of Google.

Another now serves as the chief technical officer of Tesla.

The event got underway Sunday, and the fastest teams are expected to cross the finish line in as soon as three or four days – slower entries can take nearly a week.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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