It's like Mad Max, without the need for oil

by Paul Jay, CBC News.ca

Teams from the Netherlands and Japan lead after three days of competition at the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge, a road race in Australia for 41 solar-powered cars.

Four Canadian teams are competing in the elite competition of the 3000-kilometre race from the northern city of Darwin to Adelaide in the south. In the elite competition vehicles must meet the requirements as set down by the International Solar Car Governing body, the International Solar Car Federation.

Teams from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., and the universities of Calgary and Waterloo are in the competition. The Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands currently leads the field, and as of Tuesday none of the Canadian teams had arrived at a check point in Alice Springs, approximately halfway to the finish line.

Teams from the University of Toronto and Polytechnique Montreal are competing in a secondary "Adventure class" for cars that meet older ISCF standards but not the latest, according to the most recent results from the race organizers. A team from Ashiya University in Japan leads that competition.

The solar car race wraps up on Oct. 27.

It's a busy time for technology competitions. The Spaceward Games space elevator competition just wrapped up in Utah, and Friday marks the beginning of qualifying for DARPA's Urban Challenge, which pits autonomous robot cars in a competition with the stated goal of "developing technology that will keep warfighters off the battlefield and out of harm’s way." The final event of DARPA's competition will be Nov. 3.