Delft University wins World Solar Challenge car race

The 3,000 kilometer race across Australia's desert is one of the harshest tests for solar powered cars

A team from Delft University in the The Netherlands won the World Solar Challenge, a biennial cross-Australia race that puts solar cars up against harsh driving conditions.

The team and its Nuna 7 car crossed the finish line in Adelaide on at 10:03 a.m. Thursday morning after completing the 3,020-kilometer race in just over 33 hours -- an average speed of 90.7 kilometers per hour. The cars left Darwin on Australia's northern coast on Sunday and raced over the last five days, stopping in the evening and camping along the route.

It's the fifth time Delft University has won the race. The university was victorious from 2001 to 2007 but lost its crown in the last two years to Japan's Tokai University, which came in second place this year.

Tokai University's Tokai Challenger started racing on Thursday just 20 minutes behind Delft University, but the team saw its chances of success end when it was forced to stop and recharge the batteries in its car. It finally crossed the finish line at 1:22pm local time, which was good enough for second place.

Solar Team Twente, also from the Netherlands, arrived in third place at 2:38pm followed by Stanford University's Solar Car at 4:31pm. Eight other cars are still on the course.

In the cruiser class, a new part of the race that awards points based on the practicality of the cars and the number of passenger kilometers completed, the University of New South Wales retained its lead on Thursday. UNSW's Sunswift Team and its 'eVe car is about 300 kilometers from Adelaide and due across the finish line on Friday.

The World Solar Challenge is held every two years and gives university and high school teams a chance to compare and race their latest all-solar powered vehicles. The 2013 race involved 40 teams from 23 countries.

The rules of the race's challenger class, the class in which Delft University competed, say teams can travel as far as they can everyday until 5pm, at which point they need to stop and pitch tents in the desert wherever they happen to be. Along the route there are seven check points at which nothing but the most basic maintenance is allowed. Typically, teams can check and pump tires and clean debris from the vehicles.

The race crosses the Australia desert making it a tough journey for even conventional cars.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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