The Solarworld No. 1 begins the race  (Source: The Advertiser)
Almost 40 solar vehicles are racing through Australia

The World Solar Challenge sun-powered car race started yesterday with 37 solar vehicles created by 61 teams from 20 nations racing into the Australian outback. Thousands of spectators watched as participants started the trek to Adelaide from the Northern Territory of Darwin, a 3,000-km journey that takes several days.

Race organizers have one set rule: each custom-built vehicle must navigate the 3,000-km. course on solar power only; no other resources can be used. Drivers and crew stop racing and setup camp once the sun goes down. Teams typically endure hot temperatures, strong winds, angry truck drivers and random kangaroo crossings over the duration of the trip.

The Dutch Nuon Solar Team, winner of three races and current record time holder, is one of the favorites to win the race again. The University of Michigan's entry, a favorite to win the overall race, unfortunately crashed just a few minutes into the start of the race - status of the vehicle is unknown. Japanese team Aurora was currently in first place at the last check point, with a 20-minute lead over Belgium's Umicore car.

Organizers also added a gasoline/electric hybrids and ethanol vehicles category to the race, featuring 19 participating vehicles.

A similar solar car race in North America will take place sometime in July, with participants racing a course from Texas to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The race route and full list of race participants is unknown.

Car manufacturers are looking for alternative technology to power cars, but solar power is not a research priority at the moment.

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