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by Tim Beissmann

The front-runners in the 2013 World Solar Challenge have crossed the border into South Australia on the approach to the finish line in the epic sun-powered continent-splitting race.

The Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands leads the field on the third day of the 3000km journey from Darwin to Adelaide ahead of the Tokai University entrant from Japan and fellow Dutch competitor Solar Team Twente.

The top-ranked Australian entrant, Team Arrow, currently sits in sixth place overall. The Queensland-based team crossed the halfway mark earlier today and is now on the approach to the South Australian border.

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The biennial race is the world’s largest solar electric vehicle event, this year welcoming 42 teams from 24 countries to vie for the title.

Teams compete in three distinct categories, with vehicles belonging to the single-seat super-aerodynamic Challenger class leading the way ahead of entrants in the Cruiser class, which comprises vehicles offering real-world practicality, and the Adventure class, which encourages creative, inspired vehicle designs.

After setting off from Darwin, competitors travel as far as they can until 5pm each day when they are required to make camp in the desert wherever they end up.

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Each vehicle is allowed 5kWh of stored energy – around 10 per cent of the theoretical amount required to cover the distance. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle. This year’s solar vehicles are joined by petrol-powered Audi A3 Sportback, which is so far averaging fuel consumption of 4.2 litres per 100km.

Nuon – which claimed four consecutive crowns between 2001 and 2007 – is on track for its fifth title this year after finishing runner-up to current second-placed rival Tokai in 2009 and 2011.

The winner is expected to cross the finish line in Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, on Thursday.




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