Twenty-two bug-shaped solar cars designed and built by corporations and universities from around the world set out across the vast, inhospitable Australian outback on Sunday in the eighth World Solar Challenge.
Japan’s Sky Ace Tiga car, from the Ashiya University in Osaka, led off after qualifying fastest for the 3,000 km (1,860 miles) race across the center of Australia from the tropical north city of Darwin to Adelaide in South Australia.
Ashiya University’s Professor Kunio Nakagawa said his team’s car, one of the race favorites, was capable of speeds averaging 95 kph (59 mph).
“The first target is hoping to finish this race with safety and the second target is to get a top-three position,” Nakagawa told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Dutch team Nuna 3 returns after winning the past two races in 2001 and 2003 and is joined by entrants from 10 other countries, including the United States, France and Canada.
Nuna 3 set the race-record time of 30 hours 54 minutes in 2003.
Race leaders were expected to reach Adelaide by mid-week.
The race was devised as a challenge to design and build solar-powered cars using the most innovative application of alternative energy and transport technologies.