The "Tokai Challenger" solar car from Japan's Tokai University won the 3,000 kilometer Global Green Challenge race down the center of Australia. The Tokai Challenger maintained an average speed of over 100 kilometers per hour, or about 62 miles per hour, besting the winner of the previous four races - the Dutch Nuon Solar Team.
This year's race took place from October 25 to 29. The event is an expansion of the World Solar Challenge, a solar car race from Darwin to Adelaide that was first held in 1987 and takes place every two years. Renamed the Global Green Challenge this year, the race has evolved into a platform and testing ground for the next generation of vehicle technology. Through its two constituent parts, the World Solar Challenge for solar cars and the Eco Challenge for production vehicles, the Global Green Challenge offers a sneak peek into the environmentally sustainable cars of the future.
Tokai University's car was equipped with Sharp multijunction solar cells, which were developed for outer space applications such as satellites. According to Sharp, the car's solar cells have a combined output of 1.8 kilowatts and a solar conversion efficiency of 30%. Sharp will continue pushing forward with R&D on compound solar cells, in addition to crystalline and thin-film solar cells, which are currently the company’s main solar power products.
The winning team, named Tokai University Challenge Center Team, was led by Hideki Kimura, a professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The team for this year’s race was made up of 19 members, mostly students. The Tokai University Challenge Center Team has crossed the Australian desert for the challenge three times previously — in 1993, 1996, and 2001.
The University of Michigan's Infinium car, which finished third, was given the Technical Innovation Award. Among Infinium's technical innovations was a lithium-ion battery pack developed by A123 Systems. Non-solar cars competed in the Eco Challenge to demonstrate the levels of efficiency they could achieve on a closed highway. Among the notable achievements, an all-electric Tesla Roadster set a record distance of 313 miles on a single charge.