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The Nuon Solar Team has taken out the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge at an average speed of 81.2 km/h, running from Darwin to Adelaide two hours faster than its nearest competitor.

The Dutch team led the University of Michigan and Belgian entry Punch Powertrain Solar Team in the headline Challenger Class. Australia’s highest finisher was the Western Sydney Solar Team, crossing the line in sixth.

Challenger Class cars essentially race between Darwin and Adelaide, for a total course length of 3021 kilometres. They’re allowed to be five metres long and 2.2 metres wide with a 4m2 solar array, and focus on extracting maximum efficiency with clever aerodynamics and single-seat designs. Solar power is the only form of propulsion allowed – teams can’t plug into any external sources overnight.

The first-placed Nuon car battled a suspension failure during its run, while all competitors struggled with strong winds and cloudy conditions during the week-long challenge.

Along with the science-fiction Challenger Class cars, the World Solar Challenge is open to larger, more practical vehicles in the Cruiser Class.

Established in 2013, the class involves efficiency testing, a three-point turn and reverse park test, and subjective assessment of the cars by a team of judges. Cars are allowed to use external energy sources, but the goal is to use solar or harvested energy for as much of the trip as possible.

Bribery isn’t encouraged, but one team did try to win the judges over with an onboard esky full of cold beer during the practicality tests, while others presented things like a smartphone app that helps drivers maximise the amount of sunlight a car gets while parked.

Solar Team Eindhoven (above) took out the practicality tests, with a combined score of 93.4 out of 100. The team of Dutch students were also clear winners in the efficiency challenge, carrying the equivalent of 3.4 people 3021 km using just 45.7 kWh of external energy.

By way of comparison, a Tesla Model S with a 100kWh battery has a claimed range of 613km on the NEDC.

The highest-placed Australian team in Cruiser Class was third-placed Clenergy Team Arrow (above), which required 91.5 kWh of external energy to cover the course.

Finally, Adventure Class is open to teams that don’t quite meet the current design rules, or want to run old cars with new team members.

Mississippi Choctaw High School completed the Darwin – Adelaide run just under two hours faster than its nearest competitor, NWU Solar from South Africa. Australia’s highest finisher was Adelaide University Solar Racing Team.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is conducted every two years.

Click on the photos tab for more images from the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 

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